The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo

The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo, by Conor Friedersdorf.

Every prominent instance of journalism that proceeds with less than normal rigor when the subject touches on social justice feeds a growing national impulse to dismiss everything published about these subjects — even important, rigorous, accurate articles. Large swathes of the public now believe the mainstream media is more concerned with stigmatizing wrong-think and being politically correct than being accurate. The political fallout from this shift has been ruinous to lots of social-justice causes — causes that would thrive in an environment in which the public accepted the facts. …

I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed.

Casually perusing “anti-diversity” headlines without reading the memo might mislead readers into thinking a Google employee had assigned a negative value to gender diversity, when in fact he assigned a positive value to gender diversity, but objected to some ways it was being pursued and tradeoffs others would make to maximize it. … And it doesn’t capture the contents of a memo which concludes, “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.” …

News outlets must do a better job of accurately characterizing the memo’s contents—I’ve seen numerous mischaracterizations that would lead readers to believe that women had been attacked or disparaged in ways that the text of the memo does not actually bear out.

And then news outlets should transition from stigmatizing the memo’s claims, as if the entire audience has preemptively rejected all of them, to marshaling facts and arguments to adjudicate each of its many claims on the merits.

hat-tip Stephen Neil