(The Advocate/T-P, May 22) 

For more than four decades I have been a fierce critic of the standards, or lack thereof, that prevail in too many outlets for American journalism. I’ve always written that journalists should do a better job of self-policing.

In that light, count me guilty of an unfairness — not a major one but still notable, in an April column here called “Garret Graves dug his own political resting place.”

Nobody asked me, much less pressured me, to pen this mea culpa, but four weeks of a nagging regret impel me to do so.

Graves, of course, is one of Louisiana’s six members of the U.S. House of Representatives. My column exposited what I considered a common theme, namely political pettiness, in two different controversies involving Graves. I detailed reports, which he less-than-convincingly says are misconstrued, that he essentially lobbied to oppose the bid of his fellow Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise for the House speakership. And I criticized him for what I considered an absurd explanation for his refusal to support aid for Ukraine. There also were several other instances that I didn’t fully recount where I found myself less than impressed with Graves’ actions or attitudes.

The problem, though – and the violation of journalistic best practices – came in my opening and closing paragraphs.

For years I have complained when journalists reach sweeping judgments that are not justified by the actual content of the report or column in which they are made. Upon reflection, I committed that same infraction when writing about Graves. I extrapolated too much from two individual incidents (combined with general impressions, not fully developed, of other Graves actions or attitudes).

The result was unfair to Graves. What should have been a sharp but focused criticism turned into a more widespread condemnation…. [The full column is here.]


Tags: , , , ,