Ann Althouse Vs. Journalism

You may have heard that Wisconsin Supreme Court justice David Prosser allegedly put his hands around the neck of justice Ann Walsh Bradley in an argument in her office. Justice Bradley has accused Justice Prosser of doing this just before the vote that upheld the union busting bill.

It appears that after Justice Bradley made the accusation, Bill Leuders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism wrote a news story that said, “Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers earlier this month.” Which is true; it is alleged that Prosser did that.

Then, as more information on the story unfolded, the story was revised to include this new information, which alleges that Prosser was defending himself from a frenzied onslaught by Justice Bradley. The newer story replaced the older one. And it clearly says that the story has been changed from an earlier version.

This is an old practice going back to the days when wire services sent updates to newspapers via those old machines that were installed in every newsroom and which continuously spewed out typed copies of stories sent via telegraph. My mind is going blank over what we used to call them. But if there was a breaking story, over a period of time you’d get several versions of the same story, each one rewritten to include whatever new information or corrections came to light, with instructions that this version replaced the earlier version. Newspapers would print whichever version was most recent when the paper was “put to bed” and ready for printing.

New information was not just tacked on to the end of the story but incorporated into it, so that it was ready to be typeset into newspapers without revision. It was the practice in those days to write news stories with the essential information at the top, so that if the text ran too long to fit the column allocated to it, you could just lop off the last few paragraphs and not lose anything essential.

But Ann Althouse, apparently assuming that journalists go by blogger’s rules, smells a rat.

Yesterday morning, I first read the story written by Bill Lueders [note: link didn’t work at the time I wrote this, but I’ll put it in anyway — B.] — of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — saying that “Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers earlier this month.”

I’m linking to the publication of the article in the Wisconsin State Journal, because it seems to be the original version of what Lueders wrote. The version that now appears at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has been — according to a note in red at the top, time-stamped 10:15 p.m. — “updated to reflect reports of a statement from Prosser denying the allegations.” But “updated” does not mean that there is an update at the bottom of the original text, adding new material or noting mistakes. The article has been rewritten, so the flaws that I am going to write about here can no longer be detected.

Well yes, Ann, that’s kind of standard practice when a story has changed substantially from an earlier version. And stories change because more information comes out over time. This is how news works. Often the first reports of an incident have errors or missing pieces, because if you sit around and wait for all the information to come out, you will have been scooped by the other newsies by several hours. So you run with whatever information you do have that seems solid, usually draped with a lot of “allegedlys,” and then send corrected stories as updates, with the stories rewritten so that new information is incorporated into the text.

One reason this is still done is that it’s assumed most readers don’t get past the first paragraph or two. So if you’re just adding new information or corrections to the end of the old story, a lot of people won’t see the corrections. Is that what you want?

So far, I haven’t seen any news report that says Justice Prosser really did try to strangle Justice Bradley, just that Justice Bradley alleged that he tried to strangle her. It is beyond dispute that Justice Bradley made the allegation. And when one state supreme court justice accuses another of assault, that’s pretty big news. That’s not a story any newsie would sit on waiting for all the counter-accusations to come to light.

Althouse is picking news stories apart trying to show that there was some dastardly plot afoot to make Justice Prosser look bad. But news is what it is. And you know that if a liberal justice were accused of assaulting a conservative one, she’d be screaming her head off for all the gory details to come out NOW NOW NOW.

15 thoughts on “Ann Althouse Vs. Journalism

  1. I studied journalism in college for a year.
    Back then, here’s what you HAD to include in the first paragraph or two:
    Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Or, as much of each of them that you knew at the time you were writing the story.
    If you failed to do that, you got a bad grade.

    If Prosser did indeed do what’s being described, he should be charged with assault. Violence should never be an option – unless it is a clear-cut case of self-defense. And if it’s true, he needs to either resign, or be impeached if that’s how WI tosses judges off the court who are guilty of felonies/assaults.

    It’s hard to imagine someone like Althouse graduated at the top of her class at NYU and is a law professor.

    She’s a doctrinaire, boring, Conservative blogger, and if she’s the same in the classroom as she is in her blog, I feel sorry for any students who take her classes.

    And if the shoe was on the other foot, she would be doing the usual Conservative wailing, shrieking, tearing of the hair, and rending of clothing, about how the Liberal media was… well, doing whatever made the Conservatives feel uncomfortable, angry, or exposed – like tell the truth.

    I wouldn’t click on her blog, or read her, on a bet.
    With this AA – no 12-step program is needed.
    I won’t even take that first sip.

  2. Ann Althouse thoroughly disgraced herself during the Wisconsin union demoes when she goaded workers and misrepresented them in a horrible, disfigured way. She knows her way around a setup and knows full well, the article she is trashing is using the standard journalistic model. Althouse is the one who should be castigated for yellow, cheap journalism, if you call what she does journalism.

  3. Ann Althouse thoroughly disgraced herself during the Wisconsin union demoes

    She thoroughly disgraced herself before that. She bitched about advance directives, a piece of settled contract law going back many years. For a not-just-an-attorney-but-a-fucking-law-professor to do such a thing makes me wonder if there’s any Bar rules about making the legal profession look bad, and if so, why there wasn’t noise (not necessarily *more* than noise, just noise) about that.

    Then again, so many lawyers shamed themselves during the Schiavo fiasco that maybe there’s now a pass on lying about settled law if it’s good for rattling cages.

    (For example: how many people know that Michael Schiavo went to court to ask the Florida courts to render a decision about whether or not Terri would want continued treatment, since he was accused of being biased when he’d tried to render that decision on her behalf?)

  4. Swami — I had the same idea, that the machine was a teletype. One publishing company I worked for had one in a back office, which was used to contact their office in Basel; I think is was cheaper than long distance phone calls.

  5. Prosser’s also not acting innocent enough for me.

    ‘Methinks he don’t protest too much.’

    It was when Weiner did the same thing that I suspected that there was truth behind the accusations.

    But, if you showed Althouse a video of the choking incident, she’d say that clearly her throat lept up and attacked his hands.

  6. In March, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that, in a disagreement over a case last year, Justice Prosser had called Justice Abrahamson a “total bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her. Prosser, the paper reported, confirmed making the remarks, saying he “probably overreacted” while accusing Justices Abrahamson and Bradley of being “masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements.”

    This guy Prosser is a conservative/repug time bomb just waiting to explode. Somebody needs to get this guy in for a psychiatric evaluation before he kills someone. At a minimum, if the statement above is true, Prosser is a prime candidate for a mandated anger management course.. When you start blaming other people for you not being able to control your own spirit..then you’ve got a big problem whether you recognize it or not.. Our prisons are full of guys who couldn’t control their anger just like this model Repuglican Justice named Prosser.

  7. I saw him at a Milwaukee Brewer game just before the election and he is a SMALL man, literally.Five-four, maybe, 135 maybe. This is typical bullshit from repugs when they are caught red handed. He put his hands around her and strangled her, lets see what kind of smoke screen we can put up to divert the attention that this LITTLE scumbag is as out of control as his buddy the gove…govern…. Damn, I can’t even spell it.

  8. he is a SMALL man, literally.Five-four, maybe, 135 maybe

    Well, that explains it.. Mother Nature emasculated him so he’s got to compensate by beating on women he perceives as superior to him. I guess I shouldn’t criticize the little conservative twerp..I should be more compassionate, after all, he’s probably living out of a whiskey bottle just to cope with his miserable existence. Typical Repug!

  9. Prossor’s never been married, never had kids. I’m seeing some hidden rage toward women, or some other “things” that he hasn’t dealt with. Who wants to take bets that after this all comes out, and is proven to be the true, that many other women come forward with similar stories of Prossor rage.

  10. It’s a grand idea and an inventive evasion, except there weren’t any teletypes involved, there wasn’t any hot lead being poured, and there was no reason to chop paragraphs. It looks like a website, and it acts like a website, a very well designed, too. But I can’t find any place to subscribe to have it delivered to my home. So, dragging old newsie stereotypes out doesn’t really serve any purpose, except distraction.

    Unless you’re saying this man can generate a news story using 21st century tools, but cannot possibly follow any other conventions of the 21st century tools that have been established over the last decade. Which I would buy, if you’d just say it.

    • It’s a grand idea and an inventive evasion, except there weren’t any teletypes involved, there wasn’t any hot lead being poured, and there was no reason to chop paragraphs.

      Yes, but the fact remains that it’s a convention of journalism going way back to continually replace stories with updated ones, and not just add new facts or corrections to the bottom, AND THIS IS STILL A STANDARD PRACTICE. As I said, even if the corrections are there, most people only read the first couple of paragraphs, so just adding corrections to the bottom isn’t that helpful. This is not something somebody just invented last week. Had you been paying attention, you would have noticed that replacing news stories with updated stories is a common news practice today, even on websites, especially by the wire services. Yes, blogs do things differently, but blogging is not journalism

  11. Pingback: Bitch of the Day | Man Are We Screwed

  12. I just took a crash course in journalism over at Ann Althouse’s blog. While over there this little nugget jumped out at me:

    “But if the original account is a trumped-up charge intended to destroy Prosser and obstruct the democratic processes of government in Wisconsin

    Somehow the word “misnomer” popped into my head when I read that because isn’t it the current Wisconsin government that has abandoned the democratic process in favor of a Repuglican Imperium? All hail Scott Walker!

  13. Have people not head of source control software? Just grab the version at the timestamp you want! This is a trivial problem.

Comments are closed.