Fib Newton.

Media criticism.
Oct. 29 2002 6:19 PM

Fib Newton

The lesson behind the AP's sacking of reporter Christopher Newton (it's not what you think).

(Continued from Page 1)

The Newton affair indicates that nobody out in newspaperland reads AP copy very carefully. Newton cited nonexistent academic sources at Harvard, Princeton, Penn, Vanderbilt, Chicago, Cal, Texas, Texas Tech, New Mexico, Colorado, and George Washington before a reference to a phantom Stanford source finally exposed him. If you don't read newspaper stories carefully, maybe it's that, as Michael Kinsley once complained in a Slate memo, "American journalism is encrusted with useless anecdotes." Even wire copy, which should be transparent and lucid, has become so barnacled that readers have learned to skim through the "innocuous" and "tangential" in their search for quintessence.

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Spotted any "tangential" lies in the press lately? I read my mail at pressbox@hotmail.com.

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

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