Lisa DePaulo, writing in the GQ blog (ht political wire) demonstrates how to do bad work. I realize this is not the NYT, but I don’t care. You interview politicians, you are doing politics. From an interview with Karl Rove:
I get the sense you respect Hillary more than you respect Obama.
Off the record?
Please don’t go off the record.
Off the record… [Yeah, it’s good. Sorry.]
Damn! Now say that on the record.
No. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Let’s try again, then: on the record. I get the sense you respect her more than him.
Uh, I know her better than I know him. And I just, uh—she has been around public life a lot longer and has demonstrated, you know, more involvement than he has.
This is different from confidentiality in social sciences, which affords us no protections under the law and is not, you know, an important institution of a free society. What a good, non-hack journalist would say is, if you can’t tell me on the record, don’t tell me. Otherwise, stick it back in your pocket. Again, I don’t care if it’s a style magazine, in some ways it is even worse since it has the style of journalism without any of the standards.
More generally, and this is not limited to DePaula, is the insider nature of the press compared with the outsiders they consider their readers – i.e., us. What makes these kinds of things so galling is that people in the press either fail to see how they are being used (which makes them idiots), or else know they are being used and use that to advance their careers without actually doing their jobs (which makes them craven – lacking even the rudiments of courage).