Count the problems in the NYT's article on Obama's G-20 trip

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Just really dreadful journalism by Helene Cooper, who already embarrassed herself on the trip by whining on the Times blog that Obama was trying to "muzzle" the press, because at a joint appearance with the British PM, Obama took three questions from the press, while the PM took four.

Her round-up piece in Friday's paper is just as heavy-handed and bad. For instance [emphasis]:

It was a performance that ranged from mediating behind closed doors — Mr. Obama personally intervened in a spat between the French and Chinese leaders — to a carefully calculated news conference in which he reached deep into history, showed contrition for the failings of Wall Street, and forecast a road the world could no longer travel.

This loaded language (i.e. Obama is overly stage managed) appears very high in the article, but Cooper never bothers to explain how the press conference was "carefully calculated." She does, however, note that Obama fielded questions for nearly an hour from assembled reporters. He stood before the press for an hour answering impromptu questions but according to the Times the event was "carefully calculated." Sorry, but that makes no sense.

Next, the dreaded "some":

In a premiere diplomatic tour that has already been scrutinized for every blemish, Mr. Obama has, thus far, gotten some not-so-good reviews — several European news outlets complained that he seemed aloof — and some raves. (President Nicolas Sarkozy of France called him "very helpful.")

Who gave Obama not-so-good reviews and what did they say? That information would help readers judge the critiques since portions of the European press is notoriously partisan. (i.e. Did the bad reviews come from openly conservative news outlets?) The Times never bothers to substantiate. It's just "some," and that's all readers need to know.


If Mr. Obama gauged that crowd just right, he also had a few gaffes. The Obamas gave Queen Elizabeth II an iPod loaded with songs and videos.

Why was that a "gaffe"? The Times never explains. It just assumes readers see the absurdity in the gesture. The Times though, fails to inform readers that the Queen reportedly requested the iPod in advance. (She didnt' have a video one.)

The misses just keep coming:

And Michelle Obama, during the meeting with the queen, touched her, raising already high-brows over on this side of the pond. Buckingham Palace protocol says that commoners must not touch the queen, a dictate that foreign leaders in the past have ignored at their own peril.

Here, the Times' Cooper gets scooped by Inside Edition, which checked with Buckingham Palace yesterday and was told specifically, "The reception was an informal occasion. There's no breach of protocol." (And did the Times really need to refer to Michelle Obama as a "commoner"?)

Honestly, how does the Times send a reporter to cover Obama abroad and come back with a worse, more misleading dispatch?

UPDATE: At least Times editors have fixed the loaded headline that earlier appeared online for the article: "Obama's Star Turn at Summit Gets Mixed Results." Safe to say that "star turn" carries with it a rather negative, McCain-esque connotation that Obama's merely a celebrity.

The updated headline for the same article is more straight forward and reads, "On the World Stage, Obama Issues an Overture."

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
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