New York Times, please do your job

I’ve been trying to follow recent developments in the deliciously-named* Whitefish, Montana. Of course, I am concerned for the health and well-being of my co-religionists and other wonderful people who have been targeted there. But also — given that the town is less than a nine-hour drive from Seattle — it has occurred to me that the same skinheads bussing themselves in from as far away as the Bay Area** could probably also find their way here. Which is why I find it so frustrating when the esteemed journalists of the New York Times are derelict in their duty to, you know, journalize.

Take, for instance, a recent article titled After Neo-Nazi Posting, Police in Whitefish, Mont., Step Up Patrols. In its fourth paragraph, Lt. Bridger Kelch of the Whitefish Police Department assures us that none of the threats reported in his town “had risen to death threats”. That’s good. Death threats are bad.

But six paragraphs from the end, we hear from Rachel Carroll-Rivas, a co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, who reports having received the following message: “All of you deserve a bullet through your skull. Choke on a shotgun and die. All of you would be of greater worth to society as human fertilizer than citizens.” Kind of hard to read that as anything but a death threat. And in case you need a reminder: Death threats are bad.

So which is it? Seems like it wouldn’t have been so hard to ask Carroll-Rivas for some verification, or to see what Kelch made of the threat she reported. Instead, the Times positioned the bulk of its article so as to separate the conflicting statements — in the hope that readers might not notice that only one account could accurately reflect what happened? I know column inches are scarce, but even a simple acknowledgement that the truth could not be ascertained by press time could go a long way towards reassuring me that someone at the paper of record is at least trying to do his or her job.

*As in, “deliciously ironic”. I have no opinion on the taste of whitefish, though I suspect it is not my jam. Especially when it has been jellied.

**Who knew?


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