Accuracy in Media

USA Today ran an ad on July 27 promoting home delivery of the paper and featuring the quote: “I saw it in USA Today.” The ad said: “It’s what people are talking about.” But the phrase “I saw it in USA Today” does not necessarily mean that the story you saw was true. This ad campaign follows two major embarrassments for the paper:

  • Backing away significantly from a Lesley Cauley story charging that all major telephone companies cooperated with the NSA in a program to monitor or collect phone records.

  • A retraction of the Bush/National Guard story based on the phony documents.

But there have been other embarrassments as well. The regret the error website cites the case in which the paper admitted altering a photo of Condoleezza Rice that made her look demonic. You can see the photo here.

The editor’s note in USA Today said that “In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice’s face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.”

USA Today editor Ken Paulson, under fire for these and other gaffes, has a son, Dave Paulson, who plays and records with the musical band Pink Spiders. He got a write-up on a blog at dad’s paper. I clicked on the group’s website and brought up a song from its “Modern Swinger” album that included the lyrics “She’s out of luck and out of hope and out of cigarettes, misunderstood with naked pictures on the internet her social deviance is teasing me. I know what I want.”

After the Lesley Cauley story appeared and was challenged, Paulson made his first on-the-record comments about the matter to David Folkenflik of National Public Radio on May 18. “Our sources have told us they think we got it right-they know we’ve got it right,” Paulson said. “And they reiterated that what they told us is what showed up in the newspaper.”

That position is no longer operable. To paraphrase the Pink Spiders, it looks like Ken Paulson is out of luck and out of hope. How long can he last? Can he play the guitar?




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