Time, Jeffrey Rosen, and the importance of shaming

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

A few days ago, I referenced new research into the difficulty correcting misinformation once it takes root.

Brendan Nyhan, the author of the new paper, makes an important point:

Both this paper and my previous research with Reifler indicate that corrections often fail to reduce misperceptions and sometimes make them worse. For that reason, it's essential that elites who promote misperceptions be publicly shamed in front of other elites.

This, as I have noted several times, is something the media does very, very poorly:

Reporters tend to privilege lying, rather than punishing it. In order to remove the incentives for lying, the media should shun, rather than embrace, people who have a history of spreading falsehoods. ... The primary disincentive to political figures spreading misinformation is the possibility that they will be seen as dishonest. If the media refuses to make that dishonesty clear, there will be more misinformation.

The problem is not, of course, limited to the media's treatment of political figures; it is perhaps even worse when it comes to the media's treatment of journalists and pundits.

Just this week, for example, Time magazine published an assessment of Sonia Sotomayor written by Jeffrey Rosen. The same Jeffrey Rosen whose innuendo-laden hit piece on Sotomayor for The New Republic is probably the most widely, and correctly, criticized article of the year. The same Jeffrey Rosen who wrote that hit piece despite, by his own admission, not having read enough of Sotomayor's opinions or spoken to enough of her colleagues to reach a fair assessment. The same Jeffrey Rosen who took a 14-year-old quote in which a judge referred to Sotomayor as "smart," cut off the word "smart," and portrayed the quote as an example of people saying Sotomayor is not smart. The same Jeffrey Rosen who refused to correct that obvious inaccuracy even after it was pointed out by The New Yorker, by this blog, and via email.

The proper response -- indeed, the only acceptable response -- to "journalism" such as Rosen's would be for him to be, as Nyhan put it "publicly shamed" so as to provide a disincentive to similar misinformation by him and others in the future.

But that is not how the media elite treat the media elite. And so rather than being shamed into finally correcting his dishonest description of the quote, Jeffrey Rosen is handed high-profile Time magazine real estate to write about the very person he just finished smearing. And Time's Karen Tumulty (one of the better reporters the elite media has to offer) praises it as "worth a read." Well, no, it isn't. Nothing Jeffrey Rosen has to say is "worth a read" if he refuses to correct blatant falsehoods in his work. He simply cannot be trusted.

That is how media elites treat media "elites who promote misperceptions" -- with praise. And they wonder why nobody trusts them.

Time Magazine
Karen Tumulty, Jeffrey Rosen
Supreme Court Nominations, Sotomayor Nomination
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