Damn you, Jon Friedman! (Or: man, do I need to figure out a better way to spend my days.)

October 4th, 2006 → 6:13 pm @ // No Comments

Just last night I was telling someone how I regretted, um, engaging with MarketWatch media columnist Jon Friedman. In fact, I regretted it within days of actually doing it. Since then, I’ve managed to avoid commenting on even a single one of his columns. And there have been some doozies.

But today, Jon sucked me back in to your odd, through-the-looking glass world with a column titled “I hate the media — and why you should too.” Jon’s bete noires: “a) we feel compelled to pander to all points of view b) we all too often forsake analysis in our reporting, overlooking the real meaning about why something has happened and c) we make ill-advised judgments, especially when celebrities are involved, in the hope of getting a big fat scoop.” (What do you mean “we,” white man?)

WIthout further ado, Jon’s examples:

a) A NYT piece on Donald Rumsfeld’s squash game, which, apparently, was written to “appease pro-Rumsfeld readers.”

Funny, I didn’t quite get that from the story, which did claim to offer a “window into Mr. Rumsfeld’s complicated psyche.” Let’s go to the tape:

* Rumsfeld cheats: “He…often wins points because, after hitting a shot, he does not get out of the way so his opponent has a chance to return the ball, a practice known in squash as ‘clearing.'”

* Rumsfeld is in danger of losing his mind: “The almost-daily matches, Mr. Rumsfeld, a former Princeton wrestler, acknowledged last year, have helped preserve his ‘sanity’ in a period in which he and the administration have come under increasing political attack.”

* Rumsfeld refuses to acknowledge that it’s a different world than it was thirty years ago: “‘One time I saw Rumsfeld and I referred to hardball as an old man’s game, and he just stared at me,’ says David Bass, a public relations executive who sometimes plays on the Pentagon courts.”

* Rumsfeld is an obnoxious braggart: “Nor does Mr. Rumsfeld lack for bravado. Mohamed Awad, a former champion player who was once ranked as high as ninth in the world, spent a half hour hitting with him last February at a racquet club in Munich, where Mr. Rumsfeld was attending a military conference. … Afterward, he said, Mr. Rumsfeld suggested that he could outplay another septuagenarian politician still known for his prowess in squash, the 78-year-old Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.”

* Rumsfeld gets his ideas for transforming the military from squash: “Mr. Rumsfeld himself has suggested that his ideas about transforming the military into a smaller, more agile force, like the one he pushed for in invading Iraq, were influenced by his squash playing.”

Indeed, Jon, the Times did apparently conclude, “since Rumsfeld isn’t going anywhere, we might as well get to understand him a little better.” And when they did, it clearly was an example of “pandering to the right wing.”

b) Stories detailing former President Carter’s criticism of Bush that don’t acknowledge that Carter’s son is running for the Senate.

Jon’s example? Well, he’s been “noticing headlines — even on AOL’s ‘news’ site, for heaven’s sake — proclaiming ‘Carter Rips Bush.'”

Doing a Nexis search of the last 60 days, I found one story that had the words “Carter Rips Bush,” and that was in a brief in the San Jose Mercury News. The headline? “Campaigning for son, Carter rips Bush tenure.” A search for “Carter criticizes Bush” turned up two stories: a 9/28 story from the Reno Gazette-Journal (“Ex-president, son make stop in Fallon on campaign trail; Carters criticize Bush administration”) and one an AP from that same day (“President Carter criticizes Bush at son’s campaign stop”). (Searches for “Carter Slams Bush,” “Carter Disses Bush,” and “Carter Bitchslaps Bush” didn’t turn up anything at all.) The only NYTimes story since mid-August that talked about Carter criticizing Bush was one whose headline read, “Fathers Defeated, Democratic Sons Strike Back.”

c) The stories detailing Roger Clemens’s supposed presence in the Jason Grimsley steroid affidavit. “Just as Clemens’ team, the Houston Astros, was trying to close in on an improbable position in the postseason, a shadowy news item from the Los Angeles Times’ Web site began making the rounds. It said that Clemens and other star players had allegedly been using performance-enhancing substances, adding to the biggest scandal in sports today. … On Oct. 3…the federal prosecutor. … was quoted in the ESPN.com piece as saying that the Los Angeles Times’ story contained ‘significant inaccuracies.’ … It’s irresponsible for a reporter to circulate unconfirmed information and portray it as hard news. But it’s worse than that. It’s just not fair.”

Now, let’s put aside that this report was actually printed in the Times; it wasn’t some “shadowy news item” that only ran on the paper’s web site. Nor was it unsubstantiated: “A source with authorized access to an unredacted affidavit allowed The Times to see it briefly and read aloud some of what had been blacked out of the public copies. A second source and confidant of Grimsley had previously disclosed player identities and provided additional details about the affidavit.” It would appear that the Times actually read the affidavit. And speaking of lack of context, how about pointing out that the prosecutor could be covering for Clemens because he’s trying to get him to cooperate? Or, for that matter, the possibility that some of the names are wrong…but Clemens is one of the people named?

You know what I hate about the media? People who criticize without understanding, people who talk about “trends” without offering examples, and people who rush to a celebrity’s defense before all the evidence is in. Oh, and I also hate it when I get sucked back in to writing about Jon Friedman again.

Post Categories: Jon Friedman & Media reporting

3 Comments → “Damn you, Jon Friedman! (Or: man, do I need to figure out a better way to spend my days.)”

  1. Ogie Oglethorpe

    17 years ago

    If Clemens did take ‘roids and HGH when he went to Toronto in 1997, doesn’t every sports personality alive owe Dan Duquette an apology for mocking his “twilight of his career” quote? Clemens’ last for years in Boston he was 40-39 and then he leads the AL in wins, ERA and Ks for the next two seasons in Toronto…


  2. Nordberg

    17 years ago

    Ogie, Duke’s “Twilight” comment has been taken out of context since Day 1. Also, if memory serves, Clemens began that least year in Boston hurt, and pitched much better the second half.

    Seth, what I hate about the media is the media complaining about the media. (Not directed at you.) Partisan clowns like O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter openly criticize the media not acknowledging that they are a part of it.
    Um, folks, you ARE the media. Wait. Maybe they should be complaining. About themselves.


  3. Carrie W

    17 years ago

    Seth, what amazes me is that this guy still has a column when he’s shown (and you’ve shown) over and over again that he fills them with half-truths, outright untruths and bizarre twisted logic. Okay, so that sounds like Limbaugh, Coulter et al, but on Marketwatch? Unlike Limbaugh and Coulter, at least Friedman is an amusing read, since he’s not vicious and vile. But he’s certainly incompetent as a columnist.


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