Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jeffrey Goldberg Is Too Smart For The Wire - Week 5


Plotz has some interesting points. During the week, Romenesko's Letters column and my inbox crammed with stories from journalists who had been rebuked for their dirty mouths.

Hold on, hold on. Are you trying to tell me that something happened in the world and Jeffrey Goldberg didn't know about it? Why would you lie to my face? Because this actually has happened in the real world, the cursing rebuke is now Goldberg's favorite scene in the history of the show. So real! So gripping!

So Omar is Batman now? He can dodge a hail of bullets, then fly off a fifth-story balcony, and slip away?

Two options. Either the writers have lost their minds or this is a cliffhanger that will be explained later. Tough to choose which.

Goldberg actually forgives Simon for Omar (benificent!), but, I won't forgive him for making me watch Shattered Glass again. Don't get me wrong—it was a good movie about a bad ex-friend of mine (and, as a bonus, the excellent ChloĆ« Sevigny played your excellent wife). But I'm bored by stories of pathological fabricators, not because they don't exist (though I doubt they exist in numbers—ready, set, go: Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Mike Finkel, and … who else, exactly?) but because they don't tell us much about the ailments of modern journalism.

And now this dialogue is officially off the tracks and careening into a ditch. Goldberg knew Stephen Glass. David Plotz's wife was a central character in the movie about him. Can you think of two better, more impartial people to critique a show focusing on journalism? Goldberg is bored of stories about lying journalists! He used to be friends with one! The Goldbergs and the Plotzes and six other people have discussed Glass and Blair a hundred times at a hundred dinner parties. This topic has been dissected time and time again! Why isn't David Simon tailoring this season of The Wire to Jeffrey Goldberg's own personal interests?

Even though a fabricrating reporter has happened in real life, Goldberg dislikes this plot line. Sure, that goes against every single other critique he's made about this season, but whatever. He's never known an encyclopedically correct reporter, so he doesn't like that character. He has known a lying reporter, but he doesn't like that character either. Jeffrey Goldberg decides what characters he likes and dislikes based strictly on their hair.

And he's right. This lying reporter storyline isn't telling us anything about the ailments of modern journalism. Not like that layoffs scene. Now, I know what you're thinking. Newspapers are desperate to boost circulation. Editors are maybe more lax on flowery articles because they hope it will boost interest. With all of the cutbacks, people are working harder and are busier. Those three factors combined probably make it much easier for a fabulist to slip through the cracks and survive for a time. However, Jeffrey Goldberg would like you to know that you think is wrong. Remember, he was once friends with Stephen Glass.

Which...uh...brings up another point. Jeffrey Goldberg obviously did not know that Stephen Glass was making up quotes for his articles when it was happening. Perhaps that is why he thought Gus was "unnaturally perceptive" for suspecting the inner city Orioles fan story. I mean...if Jeffrey Goldberg couldn't catch a lying reporter, how can anybody else?

Well, what we've got is a newspaper edited by a pair of impossibly shmucky editors who...have in their employ a reporter who is doing something no fabricator, to the best of my knowledge, has ever done: manufacturing information about an ongoing homicide investigation.

Let's realize one thing: the best of Jeffrey Goldberg's knowledge is not very valuable. Also, no reporter has ever made up facts about a homicide investigation, so this plot development is patently ridiculous. If Templeton was inventing quotes about the drinking and partying at CPAC, then Goldberg would be behind this. Unless Gus suspected the CPAC story. That would be ridiculous, because it's not something Goldberg himself did. It is time to ask a serious question. Does Jeffrey Goldberg understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction? It's debatable. Here's something that's not debatable, though. Jeffrey Goldberg has absolutely no idea how stupid he is. Even worse, he thinks he's smart. That's about the worst combination you can look for in a person.

What's all this talk about gerunds? Do you know actual editors who talk this way? The cops on The Wire talk like cops (best line of the night: Bunk accusing McNulty of being "nut deep in random pussy"), so why can't the editors sound like editors? None of the editors I've worked with, including the quietly persnickety David Plotz, would ever criticize me for the inappropriate use of gerunds.

We're well past the value of even discussing this idiocy any more.

Alert reader and Slate contributor Emily Yoffe writes to correct my too-short list of serial fabricators; she suggests USA Today's Jack Kelley as a worthy addition. She also corrects my earlier assertion that no fabricator had ever interfered in an ongoing criminal investigation. Emily writes, "Jayson Blair came down to DC in the middle of the sniper shootings and started making stuff up about the investigation. ... The prosecutors ended up having a press conference to denounce one Blair story as a total lie, but because they refused to say what was actually going on inside their office, the Times, for a time, took it as confirmation of Blair's superpowers."

Correcting Jeffrey Goldberg's mistakes is a full-time job that comes with a good 401k. But be warned, you will be very, very busy.

But I promise—if next week's episode has something interesting to tell us about Marlo or Omar or Bunk or Cedric Daniels, I'll be sure to make note of it. Before going back to complaining about the Sun.

Oh, thank you. Very generous, my Lord! Your complaints about the Sun are so tiresome that my rebuke of your complaints has become tiresome. Thanks for dragging me down with you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think he tried very hard to think of other journalists found to falsify and/or plagiarize material.

Patricia Smith and Mike Barnacle of the Boston Globe come to mind.