Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Newsweek Fiasco

I'm late to this party, but I'm only just now calm enough to write about it. This whole shitbucket* was something of a straw that broke this camel's back. I only thought I was burned out and cynical before. Even NPR, who I usually trust to report fairly and accurately on controversial news items, jumped on the blame-blame-blame gangpile.

If you haven't already, please check out editor Mark Whitaker's response to the brouhaha. In his interview on NPR he went into even more detail, laying out the timeline by which it was clear that while Defense officials had ample time to review the story (and did so) no one had any problem with what Newsweek published until after the riots started. So now we should decide not to publish news because it might make people mad at us?

Part of what made me so mad was listening to Whitaker's explanation of exactly what happened, then hearing news reports moments later getting the details all wrong and sounding far more sensationalist.

Examining the evidence:
1) Numerous major news organizations publish detainees' reports of Qur'an desecration at Guantanamo Bay.
2) A trustworthy source, who's given reliable information to Newsweek in the past, gives a veteran reporter information that the Pentagon knew about the abuse.
3) Newsweek goes to two senior Pentagon officials to check the veracity of the story. One doesn't comment (tacit acknowledgement?). Another replies and corrects other parts of the piece but doesn't correct anything specifically about the Pentagon report recognizing the abuse.
3) Newsweek publishes a brief report to that effect - about 8 words in a short piece.
4) Rioting ensues. Newsweek is blamed. Administration officials, other news organizations, and The White House blame Newsweek for publishing unfounded reports of Qur'an desecration at Guantanamo Bay.

No! The piece that was so objectionable was not that abuse happened, it was that The Pentagon knew about it. And that's not what people were rioting about, that's not what The White House et al were requesting retractions of. Where's the fury about all the other incorrect shit that has been published? (And I don't for one moment believe that this report was incorrect.) It's only when someone dares to suggest that the U.S. has done something wrong that a hailstorm of bricks falls upon their heads.

Where's the independent media?

Thomas Jefferson: If forced to choose between government without the press and the press without government, I would surely choose the latter.

*Secret Life of Bees reference

1 comment:

trisha said...

Prezactly. This whole thing stinks.