Everything "may or may not" happen

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

TPM's Greg Sargent explains the self-fulfilling nature of these absurd "Obama dogged by scandal" articles:

The AP's silly formulation -- that the scandal "threatens" to dog him -- is a story that could literally be written every day for as long as the scandal drags on, whether or not Obama or anyone from his team is ever actually implicated in any sense at all. Of course, even if no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Obama camp ever emerges, Obama will be nonetheless dogged by the scandal -- because of stories like these.

Right. As long as reporters keep including qualifiers like "could" and "threaten" and "may," they can just keep running these stories over and over again. It'll be stupid and hurt the country, but when has that ever stopped them?

Here's a classic example of "could" journalism from ABC's Rick Klein:

The scandal surrounding Blagojevich, the Democratic governor of Illinois, may or may not implicate members of Congress, in addition to at least the outer ring of advisers in the incoming Obama administration.

Got that? The scandal "may or may not implicate members of Congress." That's a completely meaningless thing to "report." Klein may as well write that the scandal "may or may not implicate" the Easter Bunny. It's just as true!

Obviously, the news media should report actual evidence of wrongdoing by any public official, at any time. But that isn't what many journalists are doing now. They're baselessly speculating that there may be, at some indeterminate time in the future, some evidence that someone has done something wrong. They have no idea what that evidence might be, who might have done what wrong, or when. They're just speculating that someone might have done something. Sometime.

That isn't reporting a scandal, that's baselessly inventing a faux scandal out of thin air, when a real one does not yet exist*, and may never exist.

* For anyone other than Blago and others who have actually, rather than theoretically, been implicated.

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