Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek: Obscenity

By now, you know about the Newsweek report alleging that a US soldier flushed the Koran down the toilet at Guantanamo.
Most of you don't know, though, and wouldn't by the tone established here that I support my family by working at a newspaper in the US. Yeah, the MSM (with which I disagree religiously). I work in sports, though, so I have zero input into the world of news and politics, etc.
I can tell you this, therefore, from first-hand information: Newsweek absolutely, positively failed tests that are applied to stories at much smaller news organizations.
The story relied on information provided anonymously by a single source. Talk about red flags -- one source? anonymous? That should have raised a whole division worth of flags somewhere in the system there. If someone doesn't have the backbone to support the story by being willing to yield his or her identity, that should immediately raise serious questions. And if you cannot get a second source to confirm -- confirm, not decline comment on, not question, but POSITIVELY confirm -- the information, you don't have a story. Newsweek ignored the red flags that lowly copy editors -- the lowest part of the food chain in the editing process -- at small newspapers know means trouble. It ran the story.
Second, the magazine itself said its reporters managed to talk to only two other people in pursuit of this story. Only two? Come on, friends, they didn't try very hard to confirm the story before rushing it into print.
The catch phrase "Newsweek lied. People died." is horrifically true.
Here's the bottom line, from where I sit:
The reporters involved are likely to be disciplined. That's unfair. Reporters do not make decisions about going with stories or not going with stories. Reporters present the stories; editors make the decision about whether to go with a story or kick it back for more information or spike it altogether.
The key editors involved with this story reaching print -- far before it was ready -- deserve to be disciplined... yes, maybe even fired. And take it all the way to the top of the masthead.
However, I would not hold my breath waiting for that to take place.
I would bet that Hell will freeze over, John Kerry will sign the release of his military records, Hillary Clinton will admit to her lifelong history of criminally-tainted dealings, Paul Martin will resign as Canada's prime minister, Alfonso Gagliano will admit his ties to U.S. organized crime, and Warren Kinsella will join the Conservative Party before that happens.