Snarky Journalism? Bad Journalism? The NYT's Take on the Rubios' Driving Records

06/05/2015 01:31 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016

Pentagon Papers? Nope! Why the headline?

Senator Rubio is trying to get the job as the president, and not with Uber.... note how the New York Times writes this headline and article about his driving record:

".... A review of [Rubio driving] records dating back to 1997 shows that the couple had a combined 17 citations: Mr. Rubio with four and his wife with 13..."

Why are Mrs. Rubio's driving infractions pinned on him? He wasn't driving those 13 times, she was! The headline is written to pin her driving record on him. Headlines matter -- that is what most people read and then stop. Collapsing the two driving records in that one headline smears the candidate. She is the one with the driving problem -- 13 violations to his four.

Yes, it is fair to talk about his driving record (he is running for president), but you and I both know four driving infractions is not newsworthy (even the NYT recognizes that!), and hence a four traffic violation story about a presidential candidate would get past no editor. A headline: Candidate Has Had 4 Traffic Violations in His Life" also is not something that would get past an editor. So what to do? Figure out a way to jack that number up! So, to boost the story, NYT had to go out and add his wife's infractions. Snarky? Bad journalism? Both?

And it gets more pathetic...

"....Mr. Rubio's troubles behind the wheel predate his days in politics. In 1997, when he was cited for careless driving by a Florida Highway Patrol officer, he was fined and took voluntary driving classes. A dozen years later, in 2009, he was ticketed for speeding on a highway in Duval County and found himself back in driver improvement school....."

So the driving infractions are 12 years apart -- not 12 weeks! Back to 1997! How can Senator Rubio's old driving history possibly be newsworthy? Four infractions? The Times story has two reporters and at least one editor assigned to it. Is that the best use of the NYT resources? And to keep it fair, is the NYT going to scramble to every DMV and get stories on all the candidates' stale driving records and the driving records of their spouses? Are you not more interested in candidates' records creating jobs? Or their views on ISIS?

Of course, if Senator Rubio had had a drunk driving arrest (not even a conviction but an arrest), or there was an effort to cover up even an insignificant driving infraction, that would be news. It would likewise be news if Mrs. Rubio were hired with campaign funds to drive the campaign bus. I just don't see the news in four infractions dating back 18 years.

I am not telling you to vote for or against Senator Rubio. I don't care how you vote -- that is your business. I am urging the media to think and use good judgment. The media has limited resources (every news organization has cut back) and we should attempt to use them wisely -- and fairly.

PS: Yes, I know in my job I have reported things in hindsight that I regret. We can't all have perfect judgment all the time but we ought to constantly be trying.