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June 26, 2006

Zengerle burned badly

Jason Zengerle of The New Republic admits that he was taken for a ride.

On June 22, Zengerle published three emails that he claimed were from the Townhouse listerv, a mailing list for progressive bloggers.

Here's what he said about these emails:

At the risk of engendering more charges that I'm violating the off-the-record nature of "Townhouse" (which, by the way, I'm not, since I am not a member of "Townhouse" and therefore am not bound by any off-the-record agreements, in the same way that any reporter who's leaked "confidential" documents is not bound to protect their confidentiality), let me reprint some of the e-mails that were going to the "Townhouse" list, according to three sources, before Kos sent out the e-mail I quoted in my original post on this topic. [Emphasis added]

Zengerle claims that three sources asserted that the emails he published on the 22nd were sent to Townhouse before the Kos email that Zengerle blogged about on the 21st.

In his June 22 post, Zengerle reprints three emails which he claims were posted to Townhouse on June 18. The first is attributed to Mike Stark, the second to Glenn Greenwald, and the third to Steve Gilliard.

Now, Zengerle admits Steve Gilliard didn't write that email. In fact, the words that Zengerle attributed to Gilliard never appeared on Townhouse at all. Assuming they weren't completely fabricated, they came from some other source entirely.

Zengerle got burned badly.

Zengerle says he made "an error", which he goes on to make excuses for:

Here's how the error happened: A source forwarded The New Republic three emails purportedly written by members of the "Townhouse" list--Glenn Greenwald, Mike Stark, and Steve Gilliard--expressing concern about the Armstrong-SEC story. The emails lacked timestamps and headers, so TNR checked the emails with two other sources who belonged to "Townhouse." Both of these sources vouched for the authenticity of all three emails (and two of the emails, Greenwald's and Stark's, are indisputably authentic). After returning to these two sources this weekend, TNR learned that when initially shown the three emails, both sources immediately recognized the 181-word Greenwald email and the 389-word Stark email; having determined that those two emails were authentic, the sources just assumed the 22-word Gilliard email was authentic, as well. We now know it wasn't. These were clearly honest mistakes on the parts of the second and third sources; and TNR has been unable to determine why the first source--who has not responded to messages--included this one piece of incorrect information along with the accurate information the source sent us. [Emphasis added.]

Poor Jason. His one real source isn't returning his emails anymore.

Recall that Jason isn't a member of Townhouse, and that he claims that his original source sent him emails without date stamps. If his original source were a real member of Towhouse, you'd think that the source would be in a position to simply forward emails to Zengerle with the original date stamps and subject headers.

If the original source didn't supply the dates, then at least one of the other two sources would have had to cough up that information. Presumably, that person would have had to search their email records to determine whether these messages were sent to Townhouse, and if so, on what day. If either of the two alleged corroboraters had been able to determine (Zengerle's word) the authorship and dates of the Greenwald and Stark emails, he or she also should have been able to tell that Steve Gilliard didn't post the message Zengerle attributed to him (and that nobody else posted those words to Townhouse, either).

According to Steve Gilliard, Zengerle didn't confirm the authorship of the emails with any of alleged authors. Instead, it sounds like Zengerle ran with third-hand information "confirmed" by second hand sources (who don't exactly sound like they've got the inside track). If Zengerle had copies the original emails, he would have said so. It sounds like he got one remix, which he showed to two other alleged members of the group who allegedly recognized two out of the three emails.

I wonder how Zengerle thinks he knows that any of his sources are actually Townhouse members. None of them seem to be able to supply him with the kind of detailed info that you'd expect from an actual subscriber to the list. Although, maybe he just didn't bother to ask.

At any rate, Zengerle got burned badly, and it's time for him to burn back, or admit that he'll publish anything from anyone.

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» Ruffling Big Media's Feathers from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
I'll make my point at the outset: Mainstream media will not weaken Daily Kos. Daily Kos is more than just Markos. It's a community of diarists whose views on issues may or may not mesh with his. What Markos... [Read More]

» Ruffling Big Media's Feathers from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
I'll make my point at the outset: Mainstream media will not weaken Daily Kos. Daily Kos is more than just Markos. It's a community of diarists whose views on issues may or may not mesh with his. What Markos... [Read More]

» Ruffling Big Media's Feathers from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
I'll make my point at the outset: Mainstream media will not weaken Daily Kos. Daily Kos is more than just Markos. It's a community of diarists whose views on issues may or may not mesh with his. What Markos... [Read More]

Comments

So completely off topic but... Damn Lindsay, the latest pic next to your byline is just fabulous. You are one photogenic human. Oh and the fact that you are also brilliant and compassionate plays well too. Keep sticking it to the poseurs.

Judging by how carefully gilliard makes clear that he can't deny he said something like zengerle claims he said, the first source apparently paraphrased something he said off the list.

That zengerle doesn't know what a paraphrase is, is kinda impressive.

Of course, you could read that over at punkass, but the illuminati has killed the server, again.

Just like barstoolcadaver (one of the most interesting handles I've seen in a long time), I'm also going OT. (Besides, the Zengerle-burn story is SO 12 hours ago.) I think you should post a new thread devoted solely to comments on your new pic. You already know what I think, but I'm sure others would like to weigh in with their own fabulous opinions. I know it's so superficial, but deep thinkers occasionally need to wade in the shallow end, n'est-ce pas? You don't want to end up permanently stuck in this pose, do you? Just promise you won't change the pic regardless of the consensus. Remember, I like the new one better. Everyone's opinion is valid, but some are more valid than others. (Jesus, what the hell is going on with my ego? So this is what it feels like to be Bill O'Reilly.)

The new picture is nice - you're an attractive young woman - but the old one was fine, too.

Somewhat O.T., I don't understand how someone could not notice the absence of a timestamp. It goes without saying that standard issue malware like Outlook obscures headers and that dull normal users don't really know what emails look like, but we don't generally tolerate personal attacks from such, and shouldn't.

At least there's a glimmer of intellectual honesty there at last.

"His one real source isn't returning his emails anymore." Do emails get "returned" like phone calls, or "answered," like letters?

Judging by how carefully gilliard makes clear that he can't deny he said something like zengerle claims he said, the first source apparently paraphrased something he said off the list.

Or maybe Gilliard is just more careful than most others? He is a journalist, and knows that some times you misremember stuff, and since he writes a lot, he can't be 100% certain that he didn't write it. However, he certainly can be (and is) certain that he didn't write it to the mailing list in question, which is the only context that makes it relevant to Zengerle's articles.

Private mailing lists may yet prove to be the undoing of A-list bloggers.

Regardless, this Jason character is a real jerk to think that reproing private emails isn't bad netiquette because he doesn't happen to belong to a particular mailing list.

R. Mildred:

Are the Illuminati related to the Brights?

I await the Dan-Rather-esque outrage of our friends in the rightie blogosphere. Will they dare eat one of their own?

Zengerle can either let his readers know who was spreading lies, or he can protect his "sources" that led him to this embarrassment and not be trusted by any serious person again. Similarly, TNR has reason to be concerned about trustability. Can anyone imagine, say, the Economist putting up with this kind of crap?

On the off-topic: I'd rather not know what people look like. It's not relevant, and it leads to some internal second-guessing.

Ken C.:
Appearances are not relevant to what? All information is of interest.

Your picture looks like a mugshot from an arrest for a crime that you are proud to have committed and for which you are sure you'll be aquitted.

1) Zengerle is doing his masters' bidding. It's not just him at TNR: it's Lee Siegel as well. Pretty clearly, Martin Peretz thinks that his readership is leaving him for a handful of well-written, well-informed liberal blogs. (So the word has come down at TNR to attack "the blogs" in a doomed effort to keep the few readers who are still around. It's not likely that Zengerle will be punished for following orders (although he did manage to botch the job, didn't he?)

2) Lindsay, if I could, I'd vote against the new pic. You look like you're posing for your first-ever passport photo. Where's the attitude? And it's not up to your standards technically - look at that shadow!

My guess is, you took this yourself with a tripod and timer. It shows- your face let's us know that you are not interacting with a human being. And since you are facing us, it puts us in the position of the camera- ie, it makes us feel that you view us as nothing more than a machine.

Maybe you decided that the old pic was too confrontational. If you did, here's a suggestion- have someone you really like and respect intellectually take your pic. Your feelings for that person will show in your face, and then all of us will feel warmed by the affection your image will lavish on us when we visit your site.

I hold bloggers to a pretty low standard, since most of them are blogging in their spare time and don't have time to do the rigorous fact-checking that major media outlets can do. The virtue of the blogosphere is not that it's accurate at the individual post level, it's that the constant squabbling tends to illuminate crap and separate it from truth. Every so often someone will do a roundup that serves to tie up the threads, separate the crap out, and digest the facts down to a coherent narrative. Getting attributions wrong or being suckered are part of the process, as is taking things *waaaaay* to personally. Zengerle's credibility just took a hit, but the situation seems to revolve around a set of minor errors and one big one (the apparently outright fake email). IMO Zengerle has an obligation to track down where that came from, but as long as he admits to being burned I don't see that he has an obligation to burn his source, who may well not be the faker in the first place.

Why in the world didn't Zengerle simply ask for confirmation from the authors of the alleged emails? Why did he rely on 2nd hand confirmation from what turned out to be unreliable sources when he could have easily gotten first hand confirmation from the actual authors of the emails?

My guess: Zengerle was so eager to give weight to his "Markos Omerta" thesis that he couldn't waste time trying to track down good sources.

I had failed to notice the new mugshot before now. My goodness, that's perky. New haircut? Very nice. I like it, while wondering what the effect would be if I had never seen the old one. I definitely like the straight-on, meet-your-eyes look at the camera/viewer.

If you should want to publish another in response to the rhubarbing of the sweaty crowd, my egregious suggestion is to try replicating the pose and expression of Johnny Cash on your Tshirt. It'd be an interesting gender study.

I hold bloggers to a pretty low standard, since most of them are blogging in their spare time and don't have time to do the rigorous fact-checking that major media outlets can do.

That'd be fair if it weren't for the fact that Zengerle is a professional writing the piece at his day job.

It's come to my attention that mainstream media journalists also take advantage of private correspondence occasionally.

I checked Flickr and I see that I'm wrong- the pic is taken by Thad. And looking at the series, I think I see the problem - you are way defensive about the new haircut. In some of the shots, you're saying, "I think it's pretty. Isn't it?" And in others, "This is me and fuck you if you don't like it."

I think the tougher attitude -- eg http://www.flickr.com/photos/majikthise/174099387/ --
would be better for the protrait here, but you'd have to photo-shop out the big honking shadow.

But the better thing would be to live in the haircut for a couple of weeks and then have Thad take a few more pics.

Anyway, as Chris Andersen says, this is just the rhubarbing of the sweaty crowd, so feel free to tell me to stick it my ear.

And for anyone who is still reading, I recommend Lindsay's flickr photostream. Just click on photobloggin above left.

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