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How <i>Radar</i> Sideswiped Me and Tom Edsall

Unfortunately, Reed is a bad reporter, and his bad reporting of a 30-second sidewalk conversation involving me, Edsall and former Sen. Mike Gravel is now rocketing around the web.
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There's one dimension of the blogosphere that never ceases to amaze me: Some people disbelieve nearly everything they read in the "mainstream media" -- and believe nearly everything they read online. Never mind that the ground-breaking reporting on which they base their opinions often comes from the MSM publications like Newsweek, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. That's because until now, few online publications have invested enough money to undertake original reporting, which is much more expensive than mouthing off at home. I'm happy to see that the Huffington Post is moving to change that disparity by hiring top-flight and highly experienced reporters like Tom Edsall.

I'm also glad to see the magazine Radar sending young reporters like Jebediah Reed out to cover politics. The more the merrier. Unfortunately, Reed is a bad reporter, and his bad reporting of a 30-second sidewalk conversation involving me, Edsall and former Sen. Mike Gravel is now rocketing around the web.

Reed's depiction of my ride uptown in a Checker cab driven by Gravel was accurate enough, and nicely written. Then, en route to lunch, we passed Edsall walking the other direction. We stopped to chat. When the subject turned to David Broder, I mentioned a recent column of Broder's that I hadn't liked (Broder had warned the Democratic Congress not to overreach on oversight; I think the Democrats need to press even harder on the Bush Administration). Tom was a colleague of Broder at the Post for many years and seemed reluctant to trash him, so he allowed only that Broder could sometimes be "cranky." I don't remember him calling Broder "the voice of the people," but if he did, it was said with a pleasantly arch tone, neither serious nor sarcastic. And while there's exactly no one on the face of the earth that grizzled reporters like us would "matter of factly" call "the voice of the people" (No, not even Mike Gravel), Edsall and I both know that whatever disagreements we may have with recent Broder columns, he is an honest reporter and no ivy tower thumb-sucker.

At the restaurant, a group of us had lunch. I explicitly told Reed that it was off-the-record, and he explicitly agreed. (Not a good habit to get into, Jebidiah, screwing with that one.) I should have known better than to trust a reporter I didn't know, but throwing him out of the lunch so that Gravel and I could talk didn't seem sporting. Reed quotes me as uncomfortably saying, "I have to get going," when one of Gravel's comments about the Bush daughters was supposedly too mind-blowing for the clueless pundit to absorb. The only problem with that rendition was that because I had to catch a plane, I ordered my lunch before everyone else's and stayed much too long for the time I had allotted. I took my leave (paying for Reed's lunch, plus that of the Gravel entourage) at a different point in the conversation than reported in the story, but accuracy would not have fit Reed's thesis any better than it did in the case of the sidewalk chat.

Why do I bore you with this? Only to reinforce the point to be careful of believing everything you read. Just because it's in Radar or online somewhere doesn't make it true. The same goes for reading me or Tom Edsall or others who happen to have worked at first-rate news organizations. But our batting averages--and David Broder's--are a helluva lot higher than the Jebidiah Reeds of the world, which is only one of the reasons why the readers of Huffington Post are lucky to have Edsall aboard.

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