Once again, TPM schools the legacy press

Once again, Josh Marshall and his cohorts at Talking Points Memo have proven themselves the kings of the conceptual scoop. Something didn’t smell right about the bizarre disappearance of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, and they stuck with the story until the rotting corpse was uncovered.

But the same can’t be said for many in the legacy press, who if they didn’t entirely swallow the “hiking the Appalachian Trail” story hook, line and sinker, seemed lazily happy to take the bait. TPM joyously outlines some of the most credulous coverage in respectable outlets such as Politico, NBC and the Wall Street Journal, but perhaps the most embarrassing “reporting” came from the pages of our nation’s political paper of record:

The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza — in a Tuesday morning post hilariously headlined “Sanford Returns!” — reported that Sanford “will return to the state tomorrow after spending the last five days hiking the Appalachian Trail, according to a statement released by his office this morning.”

In fact, the Post fell so hard for the Appalachian Trail line that they even ran a story — “For the Gov, A Little Me Time,” by reporter Will Haygood, highlighting the quirkiness of Sanford’s decision to “trek off into the woods,” without ever stopping to ask whether tale was true. For good measure, the story reported: “The governor, it should be noted, is quite happily married” — something it had no way of knowing.


But as TPM’s Zachary Roth explains, there’s a larger point here than just taunting the legacy press. “It’s fair to say you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to think there might be something fishy going on here,” Roth wrote, yet the general lack of skepticism displayed by many in the mainstream press reveals a flaw in the medium itself.

None of these are the biggest crimes in the world, but still: It feels absurd to have to point this out, but politicians and their staffers frequently have reason to dissemble, about issues far more important than an extra-marital affair. Too often, though, the press treats public statements from elected officials’ offices — especially those purporting simply to provide information, like the Appalachian Trail line — as self-evidently accurate. It’s as if, despite everything, some in the press can’t quite bring themselves to believe that politicians might try to mislead people.

Part of this is structural. There’s almost no acceptable way for a mainstream reporter to explicitly tell readers that the information being put out by a powerful office-holder may be false or misleading. But the only way that this structural flaw will change is if individual reporters are willing to stick out their neck to change it.

Until then, people will read blog for stories like these.

HA is no TPM, and I’m no Josh Marshall (though both are certainly worthy of aspiration), but I do believe that some of my biggest contributions as a blogger, recognized or not, have come in a similar vein.

Yeah, I’ve broken my share of important stories, but I’m not a reporter in the traditional sense, in that I don’t get up every morning and pound a beat. Nor do I want to. Instead, like many bloggers, I mostly consume the reporting of others, looking for patterns they’ve missed or concepts they’ve misunderstood, attempting to fit the raw data of the daily news into a broader and, I hope, a more informative and engaging context. I’m not so much interested in reporting facts, as I am in uncovering the truth about the facts.

Some call this lazy. Whatever. Lazy or not, it still consumes the bulk of my waking day. And besides, it’s what bloggers like me do.

And it is this contribution to the public debate that is exactly what keeps readers coming back to blogs like mine.


  1. 1

    Ghengis Khan spews:

    Wow how wonderful you broke this story. congratualtions to you. You are an impressive blogger for breaking this story. You well deserve that pat on the back. And the arrogance of others is so obvious, isn’t it?

  2. 2

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    This thing with Sanford is the most attention South Carolina has attracted since the beginning fo the War Between the States.

  3. 3

    BTB spews:

    I agree. It was Josh’s late Monday night Post that convinced me something fishy was going on. I, like Chris Cilizza, can sometimes be stupid fucking credulous hack.

    Ironically, the chief horse race chronicler Cilizza wrote today that the following people were among the “winners” in the Sanford sweepstakes:

    The State/Peter Hamby: It would have been very easy to dismiss Sanford’s five day lacunae as nothing more than someone in a stressful job looking for a little peace and quiet. And, it would have been easy to stop asking questions when Sanford’s office put out a statement Monday night making clear that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. But, people like the reporters at the State and CNN’s Peter Hamby didn’t stop there — they pushed to get more information and that information led to the unraveling of the Sanford mystery. Kudos.

    For real. Marshall at TPM was wise to stay on the track, but reporters at The State seemed to have done all the heavy lifting. It helps to have a salary and a recognized name on your badge to do that.

  4. 4

    Ghengis Khan spews:

    But if it were the State, that would be a legacy press that did it, so that fact should be left out of this thread, so we can congratulate the blogopress for being better and not as arrogant as the legacy press.

  5. 5

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Good thing Goldy has zero moral standards.
    That way no one can ever accuse him of being a hypocrite.
    The LEFTIST PINHEADED KLOWNS get all worked up about uncovering “hypocrites”. We are all hypocrites in one way, shape or form.
    WHY? Because we are human beings…often driven by “feelings” rather than moral absolutes.
    But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to live a moral life pleasing to God….as defined by God.

    Goldy & his ilk can waste their lives uncovering “hypocrites” and patting themselves on the back that they are doing some good.
    When Goldy finally grows up, he will see his life is more than half over and gloating over others failures has netted him ZERO.
    Being the moral police will get you nowhere…although you will always find another “hypocrite”!

  6. 8

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    Some call this lazy. Whatever. Lazy or not, it still consumes the bulk of my waking day. And besides, it’s what bloggers like me do.

    Yup, what bloggers like you do.
    And this is what the other kind of bloggers do with hard work.
    Under the deal, worth about $15m, Ms Finke will retain editorial control of her work and hire new staff on the east coast.

    Ms Finke’s ability to break scoops and report news that Hollywood studios would often prefer remained a secret has helped her build a large online audience since launching the site three years ago.

    Working hard is what earned her the ability to sell her blog for 15 million $$.
    How much is horsesass.org worth?
    Using sitemeter as a gauge, about half of sound politics.

  7. 11

    rhp6033 spews:

    I think the governor’s staff is getting too much flack for the “Appalachian Trail” story. It was an honest mistake. What they thought they heard was Gov. Stanford say was that he was “going out on the Appalachian Trail”. What he really said was that he was “going out for some Argentinian tail”.

  8. 12

    correctnotright spews:

    What he really said was that he was “going out for some Argentinian tail”.

    Quite funny….

  9. 14

    Rujax! spews:

    Here ya go ya fucking hypocrites:

    But there’s just no denying that in the sex scandal derby Republicans are leaving Dems in the dust. Let’s run through the recent list — Foley, Craig, Vitter, Ensign, Sanford, Gibbons, Fossella, just to hit a few of the highlights. Who’m I missing?


  10. 15

    Steve spews:

    Hey, Rujax!, this one’s hilarious. Some dumbfuck Republican was recently busted trying to have sex with a 15 year-old kid while wearing a Panda costume.


    Fuck, man. Republicans, sex and animals. What’s up with that? Hey, I’m willing to bet that Marvin has a goat costume he wears when his friend Mr. Klynical visits.

  11. 16

    Steve spews:

    This Republican was recently was busted for molesting a 5 year-old kid while the kid’s mother was attending a Palin rally.


    I’ve long said that it’s a very bad idea to leave a kid alone with a Republican. Goats, too, for that matter. It’d be a better world if Republicans stayed with goat sex and left our nation’s kids alone.

  12. 19

    Steve spews:

    This Republican thought he was going to have sex with two susters, age 11 and 12, arranged through the girl’s, heh, “mother”. Ha!! Another Republican perv busted!!


    When the cops showed up they found him waiting with two vibrators, one for each girl. No word of any animal costumes being involved.

  13. 20

    Rujax! spews:


    Seriously…I’ve got to think it’s all the repressive sex shit they spew…it ALWAYS…alwaysalwaysalways comes out sideways somehow.

    Fucking perverts.

  14. 21

    Steve spews:

    @18 Mr. Klynical spews: “Steve-
    You are a FagGoat.”

    Hmm, you like to spew the “F” word, don’t you?

    45. Mr. Cynical spews:
    Well I didn’t miss any of them. I was on a cruise ship having a ball while the LEFTIST PINHEADS (aka USEFUL IDIOTS) were gnashing their rotting teeth and wringing their uncalloused hands (uncalloused because they don’t work….the only callouses LEFTIST PINHEADS aka USEFUL IDIOTS have are on their brains and their asses!
    Although I did miss Roger Rabbit….he’s not a pansy-ass like the other faggots.
    08/29/2005 at 8:00 pm


    But don’t you fret, Mr. Klynical, Marvin the Goatfucker will never take you to task about it. You see, IOKIYAR.

  15. 22

    Steve spews:

    @20 “repressive”

    “Repression” and “Republican”. Two “r” words that have the exact same meaning.

  16. 23

    Rujax! spews:

    Gee…why do they call him a “flaming asshole” in his Washington home town?


  17. 24

    Steve spews:

    @23 “why do they call him a “flaming asshole” in his Washington home town”

    Let’s just ask Marvin. I’m sure he’d know first hand if Mr. Klynical’s asshole is really “flaming” or not.

  18. 26

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    21. Steve spews:
    @18 Mr. Klynical spews: “Steve-
    You are a FagGoat.”

    Hmm, you like to spew the “F” word, don’t you?

    You should be proud steve.
    He’s copying you.
    It is strange why all of the sudden you are offended by the same words you routinely used to insult me. It’s like you live by a double standard, and lucky for you, you hold yourself to the lower of the two.

    You see, IOKIYAR.

    I’m not going to defend those rep molesters in any way, all scum. I’ll even go so far as to say their death would be good for humanity.
    How many of those republican molesters have been re-elected.
    Let’s compare to a democrat child molester, like gerry studs. Was he re-elected by democrats?

  19. 27

    Steve spews:

    “gerry studs”

    Um, can you come up with something that actually took place in the current century? What I posted is just from the past few months. And that’s just the pedos.

    LMFAO!! Christ, you’re pathetic, even for a stupid goatfucker.

  20. 28

    Rujax! spews:

    “the marvin” is just pathetic.

    THESE are the best trolls the rethuglicants have to offer??????

  21. 29

    GBS spews:

    Steve, Steve, Steve.

    I finally figured it out. It took me a while, but, I fianlly figured it out.

    Do you know why the “goat fucker” label doesn’t work??

    Do ya?

    I knoooooow why.

    It’s not true.

    That’s why.

    Hint: You need to be thinking of another animal. Then, you’ll have your answer.

  22. 36

    Steve spews:

    @30 Hmm, is that guy’s panda costume a clue?

    Heh- Rush thinks Sanford’s trip to Argentina was all Obama’s fault.

    “This is almost like, ‘I don’t give a damn, the country’s going to Hell in a handbasket, I just want out of here,'” said Limbaugh. “He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn’t want any part of it. He lost the battle. He said, ‘What the Hell. I mean, I’m — the federal government’s taking over — what the Hell, I want to enjoy life.'”

    “The point is,” he added, “there are a lot of people whose spirit is just — they’re fed up, saying to Hell with it, I don’t even want to fight this anymore, I just want to get away from it.”

    Too fucking much!

  23. 37

    Ekim spews:


    Don’t take is so hard. Nobody is insulting you. Nobody cares enough about you to want to insult you. Of course, nobody likes you either.

    Except maybe ButtPuddy.

  24. 39

    GBS spews:

    Mule Fucker???

    Bingo! Yes! Winnn-nnnnaaaaarr.

    Google “Neal Horsley Alan Colmes”

    NH: “Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule.”

    AC: “I’m not so sure that that is so.”

    NH: “You didn’t grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?”

    AC: “Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?”

    NH: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality… Welcome to domestic life on the farm…”

    Neal’s a “hard core” Republican from the heart of the Republican stronghold. So either Republicans are liars or they’re mule fuckers.

    Or both.

  25. 40

    GBS spews:

    Steve @ 38.

    Yup! You’re clearly smarter than I am. You caught on much faster.


    I don’t have the stomach to do it, but I wonder would Google would find it you put “Marvn Stamn mule beastiality” in the search engine?


    “Not gonna do it! Wouldn’t be prudent.”

  26. 43

    Steve spews:

    Neal also bragged of bagging a washing machine and some watermelons. He said something about how, if he had a watermelon out in the field, he’d give it a name. Google “Neal Horsely watermelon” or insert “washing machine” for a good laugh.

    Damn, I bet Neal’s posting here as “Marvin Stamn”.

  27. 44

    GBS spews:

    Well life on the farm is kinda laid back
    Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack
    It’s early to rise, AND MULES IN the sack
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    Well a simple kinda life never did me no harm
    A raisin’ me a family AND FUCKIN MULES on the farm
    My days are all filled with an easy country charm
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    Well I got me a fine MULE I FUCK IN THE MIDDLE
    When the sun’s comin’ up MY PETER’S GOT THE DRIBBLE
    Life ain’t nothin’ but a funy funny riddle
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    When the work’s all done and the sun’s settlin’ low
    I pull out my K-Y and I rosin up the bow
    The kids are asleep so I keep it kinda low
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    But the lord and my wife wouldn’t take it very good
    So I DIDDLE when I could, BEAT OFF when I should
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    Well I wouldn’t trade my life for diamonds and jewels
    I’M A WELFARE KING not one of them money hungry fools
    I’D rather have my fiddle and FUCK MY farmin’ MULES
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    Yeah, city folk drivin’ in a black limousine
    A READIN BOOKS AND thinkin’ that’s mighty keen
    Son, let me tell ya now exactly what I mean
    Thank God I’m a DUMB country boy

    Well I got me a fine MULE I DIDDLE IN THE MIDDLE
    When the sun’s comin’ up MY PETER’S GOT THE DRIBBLE
    Life ain’t nothin’ but a funy funny riddle
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    Well, my MULE was my daddy’s till the day he died
    And he took me by the hand and held me close to his side
    And thank God you’re a CONSERVATIVE boy

    My daddy taught me young how to hunt and how to MOLEST
    Taught me how to BEAT OFF and FUCKN MULES IS THE BEST
    Taught me how to love A MULE and how to FUCK IT WITH MY FIST
    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

    Well I got me a fine MULE I DIDDLE IN THE MIDDLE
    When the sun’s comin’ up MY PETER’S GOT THE DRIBBLE
    Life ain’t nothin’ but a funy funny riddle


    Thank God I’m a CONSERVATIVE boy

  28. 47

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    My natural inclination, and I suspect that of many of my fellow liberals as well, is to believe in the inherent good of people and take them at their word until we have sound reason grounded in solid evidence to believe otherwise.

    We should’ve learned by now that you can’t trust a Republican or believe a fucking thing any Republican says, so maybe we really are credulous fools when take a Republican’s word for it that he’s only going for a hike.

    Or maybe it’s just that we’re so eager to see Republicans take a hike that we don’t question it when they say that’s what they’re doing.

    We should’ve learned by now that when a Republican says he’s taking a hike it’s more likely that he’s flying off to a foreign country to fuck little boys.