TwitterFacebook

An Inept Smear at Columbia Journalism Review

• Views: 1,487

At Columbia Journalism Review, Corey Pein has published an incredibly slipshod, stunningly incorrect article about the Memogate affair: Blog-Gate.

Here’s the section dealing with my document experiments, and Dr. Joseph Newcomer’s technical analysis:

Haste explains the rapid spread of thinly supported theories and flawed critiques, which moved from partisan blogs to the nation’s television sets. For example, the morning after CBS’s September 8 report, the conservative blog Little Green Footballs posted a do-it-yourself experiment that supposedly proved that the documents were produced on a computer. On September 11, a self-proclaimed typography expert, Joseph Newcomer, copied the experiment, and posted the results on his personal Web site. Little Green Footballs delighted in the “authoritative and definitive” validation, and posted a link to Newcomer’s report on September 12. Two days later, Newcomer — who was “100 percent” certain that the memos were forged — figured high in a Washington Post report. The Post’s mention of Newcomer came up that night on Fox, MSNBC, and CNN, and on September 15, he was a guest on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes.

Newcomer gave the press what it wanted: a definite answer. The problem is, his proof turns out to be far less than that. Newcomer’s résumé — boasting a Ph.D. in computer science and a role in creating electronic typesetting — seemed impressive. His conclusions came out quickly, and were bold bordering on hyperbolic. The accompanying analysis was long and technical, discouraging close examination. Still, his method was simple to replicate, and the results were easy to understand:

Based on the fact that I was able, in less than five minutes … to type in the text of the 01-August-1972 memo into Microsoft Word and get a document so close that you can hold my document in front of the ‘authentic’ document and see virtually no errors, I can assert without any doubt (as have many others) that this document is a modern forgery. Any other position is indefensible.

Red flags wave here, or should have. Newcomer begins with the presumption that the documents are forgeries, and as evidence submits that he can create a very similar document on his computer. This proves nothing — you could make a replica of almost any document using Word. Yet Newcomer’s aggressive conclusion is based on this logical error.

Notice how Pein first smears Dr. Newcomer as a “self-proclaimed typography expert” — then turns around in the next paragraph and cites his “impressive resume.” Pein says that Dr. Newcomer’s analysis was “long and technical” — then turns around and implies that this was a ploy to “discourage close examination.” Pein is apparently too lazy and/or technically incompetent to follow Dr. Newcomer’s analysis, but feels no compunction about smearing it with no refuting evidence whatsoever.

And his characterization of my document experiments is completely off the mark, as well.

Many of the typographic critiques were similarly flawed. Would-be gumshoes typed up documents on their computers and fooled around with the images in Photoshop until their creation matched the originals.

This is simply wrong. The damning fact about the Microsoft Word experiments is that absolutely no special efforts were made to duplicate the CBS documents. I simply opened Microsoft Word and began typing, using the default settings, and came up with a perfect match, the very first time. There was no fiddling, and there were no adjustments. There was no Photoshop work. And it wasn’t just one document that matched perfectly with no effort.

Here are the Microsoft Word source documents for my experiments:

18-August-1973.doc
19-May-1972.doc

And here are CBS’s PDF versions of the fake memos; compare them for yourself:

BushGuardaugust18.pdf
BushGuardmay19.pdf

Mr. Pein’s assertion that a person can “make a replica of almost any document using Word” is ridiculous, and completely untrue. If Corey Pein can produce an exact copy of a typewritten document using Microsoft Word, matching every element of spacing and typography, in five minutes of work—as he asserts—I’ll retract everything I’ve written here. I don’t expect to be issuing a retraction because, unlike Corey Pein, I’ve actually tried to do this. On September 13 I decided to test my hypothesis that the documents were fake by attempting to recreate a verified genuine typewritten document from George W. Bush’s National Guard records, and discovered that it was extremely difficult to create a document that was an exact match (in fact, I gave up after about an hour’s work).

The rest of the article is just as full of unsubstantiated claims, erroneous statements, and inept smears. If this is the best journalism Columbia can produce, there’s no mystery why mainstream media is in such deep trouble in this country. This article is a joke.

At Wizbang, Kevin Aylward points out that Corey Pein even quotes the discredited David Hailey “analysis” as if it were authoritative—and Hailey did fool around with his images in Photoshop, extensively.

UPDATE at 1/3/05 2:43:23 pm:

From Corey Pein’s resume:

Voted “most likely to bring down a presidential administration” by Columbia classmates.

UPDATE at 1/3/05 2:48:09 pm:

Roger L. Simon points out that Columbia journalism students don’t seem to be learning some elementary journalistic techniques:

What’s amazing to me is how little fact-checking is done by the Columbia Journalism Review, if this article is any indication. Somewhat less amazing, but equally pathetic is that they solicit subscriptions at the bottom. As if.

^ back to top ^

TwitterFacebook

Turn off all ads for a full year by subscribing!
For about 33 cents a day (per month) or 22 cents a day (per year), our subscription option turns off all advertisements at LGF!
Read more...

► LGF Headlines

  • Loading...

► Tweeted Articles

  • Loading...

► Tweeted Pages

  • Loading...

► Top 10 Comments

  • Loading...

► Bottom Comments

  • Loading...

► Recent Comments

  • Loading...

► Tools/Info

► Tag Cloud

► Contact

You must have Javascript enabled to use the contact form.
Your email:

Subject:

Message:


Messages may be published unless you request otherwise.
Tech Note:
Using the Contact Form
LGF Pages

This button leads to the main index of LGF Pages, our user-submitted articles. You can post your own LGF Pages simply by registering a free account with us.

Create a Page

This is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.

Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.

Last updated: 2014-03-07 2:19 pm PST

LGF User's Guide
Recent Pages
Cheechako
Robinson: What Would Republicans Do?
By Eugene RobinsonWashington Post Writers Group No matter how well Republicans do at the polls Tuesday -- and my hunch is they won't do as well as they hope -- the GOP won't be able to claim any kind of ...

2 hours, 50 minutes ago
Views: 58 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
Randall Gross
Trick-or-Treat With the President and First Lady
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome area students and the children of military families to the White House for trick-or-treating on Halloween. October 31, 2014.

4 hours, 18 minutes ago
Views: 86 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 0
Skip Intro
MO’ Money, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money
Michael Beckel at the Center for Public Integrity is on the trail of mystery men and their mystery cash. It has led him to a strip mall outside Louisville. Hunt for the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, and one finds no ...

9 hours, 37 minutes ago
Views: 82 • Comments: 1
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
Vicious Piebola
Funny or Die: 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a White Man
FunnyOrDie Video View video at link

1 day, 6 hours ago
Views: 282 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 2
Lumberhead
That Time When Michael Grimm and His Opponent Couldn’t Name a Single Book They Had Read
For a candidate, being able to name a good, safe book when asking about reading habits should be as knee-jerk as enjoying a small-town slice of apple pie. Or kissing a baby. Or being in an ad with puppies ...

1 day, 19 hours ago
Views: 289 • Comments: 4
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
lockjawcanbefun
A perfectly rational reaction to the Ford defeat in Toronto
Don't give up after the first 10 seconds, you'll miss the fun. You can see the story behind this little piece of video here, but clicking on that will spoil the surprise.

3 days, 8 hours ago
Views: 482 • Comments: 5
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 4
FemNaziBitch
Fighting Human Trafficking in Supply Chains: What You Can Do | Madina Jarbussynova
As more and more stories of human trafficking appear in newspapers and on television, consumers are increasingly asking what they can do to fight this problem. Many are frustrated, and feel disconnected from the people who make the clothes ...

3 days, 19 hours ago
Views: 280 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
blah blah ad hominem mumbo jumbo.
Astronomical!: A Visual Of The Distance Between The Earth And The Moon.
This really demonstrates how amazing our journey to the moon really was. Pic and story

5 days, 1 hour ago
Views: 527 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 5
The War TARDIS
Preview to Doctor Who, Series 8 Finale -SPOILERS- Updated x2
It appears Clara may have gone bad, if the latest trailer is anything to go by: Lines and Pictures to go with them: Clara: Do I have your attention? You will never step inside your TARDIS again Ok... Clara seems ...

6 days, 5 hours ago
Views: 674 • Comments: 9
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
MichaelJ
Jordy Smith + Impossibly Long Sand Bottom Tubes
More: Jordy Smith + Impossibly Long Sand Bottom Tubes 47701

1 week ago
Views: 408 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
 Frank says:

The bassoon is one of my favorite instruments. It has the medieval aroma -- like the days when everything used to sound like that. Some people crave baseball -- I find this unfathomable -- but I can easily understand why a person could get excited about playing a bassoon.