Jon Franklin on Horses, Zebras, and Journalism

Jon Franklin, the Baltimore Sun journalist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting, on Facebook:

“I’ve been searching for decades for an opportunity to use the old medical caution about zebras. Young doctors are warned, ‘When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.’ It means that your mind will trick you, and fill your head with exotica, like in the textbooks you’re reading. Your patient might make you think of Tibetan ivostabible neural atrophy, but what ails her is a common cold. You gotta know when to think zebras and when to think horses.

“Good advice for journalists, too.

“So this writer has beaten me to the goal. Her magnificent last paragraph puts me to shame. Waaa! That’s MY line!”

The writer Franklin is talking about is Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell, whose President Trump column this morning ended this way:

But as we head into the first public impeachment inquiry hearings this week, that straightforward Occam’s razor-esque explanation is the very last thing Trumpkins want voters to consider. They prefer confusion and discord. And so they invent improbable motives and complicated conspiracy theories involving cunning double agents.

If voters hear hoofbeats, Team Trump wants them to think not of horses or even zebras, but stampedes of unicorns.

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