Sunday, August 15, 2004

A Poor Craftsman Blames His Tools

Yesterday, we reported on the inability of the crack Knight Ridder research staff and Pioneer Press Editor Vicki Gowler to find appropriate documentation for John Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia remarks in the Congressional Record. (A task most sentient beings could accomplish in minutes via Google). Our reader T.R. writes in with a possible explanation:

The reason researchers were and are unable to source the Kerry Cambodia speech through Lexis/Nexis is that it isn't in their database. There are references to it in the index version, but it was either omitted originally, deleted, or hidden. Even after finding it on "another database", and searching specific language and citations, I was unable to pull it up on Lexis/Nexis.

[Glenn] Reynolds did what any reporter could do and went to the hard copy Congressional Record for his digital image, but he mistakenly attributed the original discovery of the actual document posted at Tom Maguire's site to a Lexis/Nexis cut and paste. It was not; the header on the original digital document reads: 132 Cong.Rec. S3564-02 and the Cambodia reference is on page 75 of 333 -- it is not on Lexis/Nexis and therefore most reporters will not find it.

Perhaps that's what one of the Kerry staffers meant when the "Christmas in Cambodia" story was raised and told Democrat vetters that "it had been taken care of." I'm not saying they had a hand in obscuring the text of Kerry's speech; they may have merely searched for it themselves and were remarking on their good fortune.

I don't have Lexis/Nexis access, so I cannot verify these claims, but they sound plausible. Especially that part about reporters being too lazy to look at original sources and instead relying exclusively on their traditional crutches. And when that doesn't work, well, I guess there's no story.

Anyone out there with Lexis/Nexis who is able to refute or support these claims, please let me know.

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