Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Journalists and the Military

The fallout over the false Newsweek story continues. An editorial from OpininionJournal questions whether or not this was an honest mistake. The editorial looks into the recent history of journalists and the military. This makes for a very interesting read.

"Less reassuring, however, is the magazine's contention that the story is a routine error. "There was absolutely no lapse in journalistic standards here," said Michael Isikoff, who was one of two reporters behind the story. Certainly we all make mistakes. But if printing such an explosive allegation based on the memory of what a single, anonymous source claims he read is standard Newsweek procedure--no documents were even produced--its readers must wonder about the rest of its content too.

The more consequential question here, it seems to us, is why Newsweek was so ready to believe the story was true. The allegation after all repudiated explicit U.S. and Army policy to treat Muslim detainees with religious respect, including time to pray, honoring dietary preferences and access to the Koran. Yet the magazine readily printed a story suggesting that what our enemies claim about Guantanamo is essentially true. Why?"
One would have expected that the Newsweek reporters involved would have done considerably more to confirm such serious allegations. No matter how reliable a source may have been in the past, it is foolhardy and lazy not to have done more to confirm the information received. As for the why, well it would appear that this is part of the continuing effort by some in the MSM to find any thing that will undermine the Bush administration and America in the eyes of the world.
"We aren't saying that reporters shouldn't be skeptical, and they certainly have a duty to report when a war is going badly. Where the press corps goes wrong is in always assuming the worst about military and government motives. Thus U.S. intelligence wasn't merely wrong about Saddam Hussein's WMD, it intentionally "lied" about it to sell an illegitimate war. Thus, too, an antiwar partisan named Joe Wilson with a basically unimportant story about uranium and Niger is hailed as a truth-telling whistle-blower. And reports from Seymour Hersh in late 2001 that the U.S was losing in Afghanistan set off a "quagmire" theme only days before the fall of the Taliban. The readiness of Newsweek to believe a thinly sourced allegation about the Koran at Guantanamo is part of the same mindset.

We have all been reading a great deal lately about both the decline of media credibility, and the decline of both TV news viewership and newspaper circulation. Any other industry looking at such trends would conclude that perhaps there is a connection. Certainly a press corps that wants readers to forgive its own mistakes might start by showing a little more respect and understanding for the men and women who risk their lives to defend the country."
After the Dan Rather debacle, (at least Dan had documents, even though they were forgeries), one would think that the MSM would have learned a lesson. It would seem that this lesson was wasted on some at Newsweek. Is it any wonder that many Americans believe that an "unnamed" or "anonymous" source are just figments of the reporter's imagination? The MSM will continue to lose readers and viewers until they clean up their collective acts and do some thing to restore their credibility. Reporting such as this does not do that. - Sailor

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