I try not to let my profession creep into this blog much. I spend plenty of time thinking and talking about poker as it is. I’d much rather focus on picking, family, trout fishing, the Blue Ridge mountains, and travel. But my profession has bumped me into a public discussion with a writer at the New York Times; I thought that was worth mentioning.
A reporter named Janet Morrissey recently wrote a piece for the Times about the current state of online poker. The material in it is nothing new to those of us in the poker world (or our friends and families, I imagine). However, as part of the article, she quoted a representative of “Focus on the Family”. To be sure I’m not misstating her intent, I’ll set it out exactly as it was formatted in the article:
Chad Hills, who analyzes the gambling industry for Focus on the Family, says the skill-versus-chance argument is nonsense. True, players can improve their game with practice and so on — but the cards ultimately determine who wins and who loses.
Not even the best players “can tell you what the next card flipped over is going to be,” Mr. Hills says. “If you regulate it, you’re cracking the door open for one of the largest expansions of gambling ever in the history of the United States.”
This is typical of FotF “thinking”, but I was disappointed that she published it as simply a counter-argument to the “poker is a game of skill” position. I even said that in a post on the 2+2 forums. Then things got interesting. Ms. Morrissey actually posted in the 2+2 thread to defend herself against claims that the article was poorly written. One of the participants pointed to my post and said, “What do you say to Lee’s point?” She replied here, saying, in part:
Any reputable journalist will look at all sides of an issue – the good, the bad and the ugly – and listen to all sides in the debate – before writing an article. I realize many of you are passionate about your cause and dislike FOF. But suggesting we ignore or leave out Mr. Hills’ views in the article isn’t realistic when writing an objective story. Likewise, it would be wrong to list his arguments and not yours.
That was more than I could take. She seemed to be saying that her job, as a journalist, was to simply state the two sides’ positions as essentially equivalent opinions and then step away. I fired back here. My key message:
I’m not a journalism professor and don’t claim to be an authority of any sort in the field. But isn’t journalism more than simply stating the claims of two opposing sides of an argument? Don’t you have a responsibility to tease apart fact from opinion from pure political hand-waving?
This is further proof that journalism in the U.S. has sunk to a new low, and yet again, we must turn to The Economist for decent reporting. They picked up on her story and set the facts right here, God bless ’em.