Posted Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, at 10:22 AM
Buried in today's weirdly gnarled
about how someone is spreading unsupported accusations of plagiarism against a prominent writer for a prominent magazine—which the Post's Keith Kelly is merely reporting on to show how untrue the accusations are, which requires using the reporter's name 14 times—is a quote from Tucker Carlson, editor in chief of the Daily Caller, which apparently tried reporting on the plagiarism charges and then decided there was nothing worth publishing:
"I have no clue where we got it. I never ask the reporters where they get stuff, only whether it's true. In this case, we didn't have enough."
Now, Tucker Carlson is more than free to refuse to answer questions from a media reporter about how and why his publication worked on a story that didn't pan out. Where the tip came from is none of Keith Kelly's business. Chasing after bad tips is part of a reporter's job, and the whole point is to quietly drop the bad tips when they turn out to have been wrong. (That's what makes the Post item so idiotic or disingenuous: a "smear" isn't a smear till somebody publishes it. Like Rupert Murdoch did, in the New York Post's media column.)
But if the Post got the quote right (which is not always safe to assume), does Carlson really think there's some journalistic principle that an editor should "never ask the reporters where they get stuff"? Has he mentioned that to whoever underwrites the Daily Caller's libel insurance? That's like an engineer saying it's the construction crew's job to do the math.