Case Study In Unethical Journalism And The Unethical Editors Who Spawn It: Jezebel and Editor Natasha V C

Natasha. Jezebel must be so proud.

Natasha. Jezebel must be so proud.

It is obvious that the mainstream media is determined to shoot down Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by any means possible, because Democrats a) hate him to pieces and b) fear him. The primaries aren’t even underway, and they are already outing their own bias with over-heated criticism of his refusing to be drawn into gotcha questions about evolution and President Obama’s religion (to which he gave essentially the same answer as Hillary Clinton did in 2008: he has no way of knowing for sure), dropping subversive reminders that he never got a college degree, and already are breaching Journalism Ethics 101 principles by running bogus accusations without checking the facts. This will continue—it worked with Sarah Palin and Romney, after all—until the American public figures out what’s going on. I’ll try to help the best I can.

New York Times star columnist Gail Collins, who detests Walker with a passion that apparently obliterates all professional ethics, wrote two weeks ago that Walker was responsible for Wisconsin’s 2010 cuts to education, resulting in teacher layoffs. Walker didn’t take office until 2011. The Times retracted—six days later!—but you know how it works, and so does the Times: a fraction of the readers who read the mistake—this was a reckless, biased, embarrassing mistake—see the correction. The Times is better than Fox News…barely. Collins and her editor should have been disciplined.

Then  the progressive feminist website Jezebel printed this:

“Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget—which would cut $300 million dollars out of the state’s beloved public university system—has a non-fiscal bombshell tucked in between its insane pages.Under Walker’s budget, universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice. Under Walker’s plan, university employees who witness a sexual assault would no longer have to report it.There are no policy recommendations in Walker’s budget how or what would replace these reporting mechanisms. The Governor simply instructs that they should be deleted.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the bewildering force that is Scott Walker, know this: he is a small-time guy who is having a big-time moment by playing the conservative werewolf, a role Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are so far unwilling to play in their presidential bids.”

[Translation: “Small time” means “no college degree.” Ad hominem, naturally.]

The Daily Beast, which bleeds blue and has its own stable of wildly left-slanting commentators, uncritically picked up the story, as did many others. They kept it around, too, well after this was revealed:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin requested that Gov. Scott Walker remove a requirement that all 26 campuses report allegations of sexual assaults to the state every year because it already submits similar information to the federal government, a UW spokesman said Friday.

The proposal to delete the annual reports to the state Department of Justice is among dozens of requirements that would be removed as part of Walker’s plan to decouple the university from most state laws and state oversight. Though the budget proposal came out earlier this month, the sex assault request was explained in a summary released Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

UW System spokesman Alex Hummel said Friday that the university requested the change because information given to the state is duplication of data required to be reported to the U.S. Department of Education under federal law. The university also posts the information on its website.

In other words, Jezebel didn’t bother to check with the University, or Walker. It just assumed that its take on the story was true, because Walker’s a conservative and a Republican, and they just know Republicans don’t care about rape, because they’re at war with women. The Huffington Post, Raw Story and the Daily Beast just assumed it was true.

Finally, Jezebel had to retract the story, which it did in a most grudging and unethical manner:

[Editor’s Note: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was releasedto clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Clery Act. Scott Walker’s camp assures that he’s committed to protecting victims. We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture. We regret the error and apologize.]


Jezebel printed the story after to leaping to a damning conclusion because of its own toxic biases and without doing basic reporting due diligence. Caught, it tried to blame the University for not clarifying earlier what Jezebel should have clarified itself. Despicable. Then the website endorses deceit: “this piece conveys factual information,” all right—it does so in such a way as to mislead readers about what the facts mean, because of the essential information the story does not include. That’s called factual but misleading, and is as damaging as a lie. This isn’t a mitigation in any way, as the phrasing suggested.

But no wonder Jezebel’s limp acceptance of responsibility and arrogance shines through. Here is what the author of the sliming, and senior Jezebel editor, sent out to her followers on Twitter:

“Ran an update on the Walker piece. Find another thing to be outraged about sweet, sweet Walkerites.”

— Natasha VC (@natashavc) February 28, 2015

An “update”?  It’s called “a correction,” you arrogant hack. And everyone who wants to be able to rely on your website, including your employers, should be outraged at your incompetence, not just “Walkerites.”

Then this:

“And I’m not gonna apologize for what was in the budget. Because that was in the budget. Ask your gov. to apologize for bad optix.”

— Natasha VC (@natashavc) February 28, 2015

Jezebel, if it was an ethical organization that cared about integrity rather than firing up its partisan readership, should fire her for this, except that Jezebel hired her, probably knows Natasha’s unethical proclivities and likes them.

No one’s asking her to apologize “for what was in the budget;” that’s a straw man and a dodge. She should grovel for forgiveness, however, for being an awful, inept, misleading journalist who places making a GOP politician look bad above her duty to get the story right. ” Walker should not have to apologize because a lazy, inept reporter misread the “optix.”

Then followed a series of suddenly remorseful tweets from VC, saying, well, she should have called the Governor’s office, and gee, maybe she should apologize after all. There’s only one way the author of the first set of tweets above could write the second set. Somebody told her to do it, or else. Such blatant bias was too obvious even for Jezebel.


Sources: USA Today, IJR Review Jezebel, New York Times

20 thoughts on “Case Study In Unethical Journalism And The Unethical Editors Who Spawn It: Jezebel and Editor Natasha V C

  1. “this piece conveys factual information,” is not only unmitigating, but, to me, suggests an intent to mislead from the start.

    • To clarify, they got caught, and made a feeble attempt to continue hoodwinking their more malleable readers. Reads like one of those terrible excuses we tried on our parents until we were about 7.

  2. I’m sorry Jack, even with Bill, I think Fox still has the leg up on Gawker. Bill at least knows that he’s done wrong, and is trying to spin relentlessly, Gawker doesn’t even have the self awareness to realize what they’ve done, and why it matters. Meanwhile, their ‘senior editor’ is trying to figure out if “Yeah, I lied, cry me a river bitches.” can fit on a business card.

    • Ranking the unethical nature of various individuals and organizations may be fun to an extent, but it lends itself too well to “there are worse things” level argument.

  3. >>> The Daily Beast, which bleeds blue and has its own stable of wildly left-slanting commentators

    You are being far too generous. When they inexplicably bought Newsweek, I would occasionally read their tie in pieces. I have never seen such drivel portrayed as respectable news or commentary.

    I am deeply conservative on most issues, but I can honestly represent liberal views and then explain why I disagree. The Daily Beast does nothing but write pathetic strawman arguments; they portray nothing about conservative positions or reasoning accurately, and cannot string together a cogent defense of their positions (and these were featured pieces they were proud enough to promote in Newsweek.)

  4. I share your frustration with the media’s blatant disregard for anything that even approaches honesty, but my question is what can be done? I already boycott the major networks and get my news with a hefty dose of skepticism from other sites. What else is there to do about it? The media needs to pay the piper for the incalculable amount of harm they’ve done to the American people, who are largely unaware of the depths of the problem.

  5. New York Times star columnist Gail Collins, who detests Walker with a passion that apparently obliterates all professional ethics, wrote two weeks ago that Walker was responsible for Wisconsin’s 2010 cuts to education, resulting in teacher layoffs.

    Even if he did, so fucking what?

    What do public school teachers today do aside from enforcing nonsense zero tolerance policies and sexually exploiting students?

  6. The irony of this is that Governor Walker has won every stand up battle against the leftist legions right in his home state- turning it from strong blue to red- and has done so in the teeth of virtual union riots, political shenanigans, press rancor (like that described here) and piles of outside money. Every time, too, it’s made him stronger. Now, he’s a leading Republican contender for the presidential nomination! Let these people just keep going at it. Their worst enemy is their own blind hatred.

  7. When did journalism schools turn into breeding grounds for vicious attack dogs? Watergate? Is it a Millenials thing? I forwarded a Peggy Noonan column to a college classmate who had gone on to Columbia for his journalism degree in the mid ’70s to underscore a point she had made in her column and get his thoughts on that point. All he responded with was “Peggy Noonan?” I wrote back and asked him to comment on a point in the Katrina Van Den Heuvel column I’d attached, sending him the same column. At which point he actually responded to my question. There is such incredible, seething contempt in the young (and not so young) media types for anything and anyone not “on the right side of history” or otherwise a dyed in the wool lefty. It’s extremely disconcerting.

    • This makes me sad. There have been many things Noonan has written that I’ve disagreed with, but she is one of the most fantastic word artists I’ve ever read.


      P.S. I wonder if her book “The Case Against Hillary Clinton”, published in 2000 when Hillary was running for Senator, will see a resurgence of popularity and/or an editorial update for 2016?

  8. A shame, especially since they have at least one journalist who can do an apology right.

    This is really, really bad. It means, of course, that when I dismissed Richard Bradley and Robby Soave’s doubts about the story and called them “idiots” for picking apart Jackie’s account, I was dead fucking wrong, and for that I sincerely apologize. It means that my conviction that Sabrina Rubin Erdely had fact-checked her story in ways that were not visible to the public was also wrong. It’s bad, bad, bad all around. (And, frankly, it could have been avoided, had Erdely been clearer in her disclosures about what she’d done to reach Jackie’s alleged attackers and what her agreement with the girl had been. This announcement wouldn’t be producing nearly the same shockwaves if those things had been clearly outlined.)

    • It also means that apologies aside, Jezebel has learned nothing, and has no policies in place other than individual whims to prevent false stories from being put up on the website. I think we should just assume Jezebel is the equivalent of a feminist “News Nerd,” and ignore them.

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