TwitterFacebook

An Inept Smear at Columbia Journalism Review

• Views: 1,434

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
Randall Gross
Unpacking Unpaused Global Warming - Climate Models Got It Right
Although the global climate has continued to build up heat at an incredibly rapid rate, there has been a keen focus among climate contrarians and in the media on the slowdown of the warming at the Earth's surface. The ...

3 hours, 24 minutes ago
Views: 129 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 14 • Rating: 0
FemNaziBitch
How an Extreme Athlete Uncovered Her Genetic Flaw - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society
In other words, Kim was right. "I'm beyond impressed," says Michael Ackerman, a geneticist at the Mayo Clinic. He specializes in inherited heart disorders like ARVC that can cause sudden death at any time. Such diseases make for people ...

1 day, 10 hours ago
Views: 251 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
sagehen
Doctor Who Spoiler Thread
For those who want to post immediately... live... without having to hide spoilers behind the button.

3 days, 23 hours ago
Views: 436 • Comments: 98
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 6
EiMitch
Escapist: Maniac Cop
escapistmagazine.com Link broken? The gist is that this is an impressively sarcastic review of an old slasher flick based on the "unrealistic" premise of a cop abusing his power to murder people.

4 days, 23 hours ago
Views: 310 • Comments: 1
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
Hyped Up On Ganja
Hunt for German neo-Nazis was ‘complete disaster’
BERLIN (AP) -- Police and security services in Germany's eastern state of Thuringia bungled the hunt for three neo-Nazis, who years later turned out to be the main suspects in a far-right murder spree. Story

5 days, 17 hours ago
Views: 475 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 3
Rightwingconspirator
A Lizard’s Regenerating Tail
Don't ya hate it when that happens? You feel so short for a month. Anoles are curious little lizards capable of ditching their tails when they feel threatened. This self-amputation, called autotomy, takes about 25 days for the tail to ...

6 days, 1 hour ago
Views: 344 • Comments: 1
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 5
CriticalDragon1177
Io9 - Everything You Need To Know About Lemuria, The Lost Continent Of Lemurs
Esther Inglis-Arkell talks about the weirdest lost continent myth, I've ever heard. Its the only one I know of that ever included giant telepathic lemurs. No seriously! In 1858 a young zoologist, playing around with an idea, came up with ...

6 days, 3 hours ago
Views: 476 • Comments: 4
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 6
Laughing Gas
Scumbag “HBD believer” claims Michael Brown charged officer
WARNING: LINK TO HATE SITE He links to some ijreview, a right wing site: This guy makes me sick.

1 week, 2 days ago
Views: 1,257 • Comments: 6
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 1
BadExampleMan
“Growth” and Some Jellyfish
This piece was basically just to use up some scraps I had sitting around. I liked the way the frit lace turned out but I didn't really have a use for it. I've been on a jellyfish kick lately. This ...

1 week, 5 days ago
Views: 480 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 2
 Frank says:

Number one ain't you... You ain't even number two.