Saturday, June 5, 2004

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A retraction

Jack Shafer has a Slate piece pointing out that while the New York Times and 60 Minutes have issued retractions for stories about Iraqi WMD programs that leaned too heavily on Iraqi defectors provided by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, other media outlets have not been as forthcoming:

It's not like the Times and 60 Minutes were the only media outlets to have showcased dubious defectors' tales. The journalistic community has known for almost three months, thanks to a Knight Ridder Washington Bureau story, that the INC claimed to have placed its "product" in 108 articles and broadcasts between October 2001 and May 2002.

The Great 108 list is a who's who of American and world media: The Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Weekly Standard, the Associated Press, Fox News Channel, Agence France-Presse, the Economist, and more. While a spot on the list doesn't necessarily mean the named news organization swallowed INC swill whole, it indicates that the New York Times wasn't the only one with an unacknowledged INC problem....

The rotten truth is that media organizations are better at correcting trivial errors of fact—proper spellings of last names, for example—than they are at fixing a botched story....

Individual journalists are a lot like doctors, lawyers, and pilots in that they hate to admit they were wrong no matter what the facts are. Institutionally, publications avoid massive mea culpas out of fear of feeding libel suits. Call them on their hypocrisy for expecting government and business to admit errors while they stay silent and journalists will tell you that nobody wants an annotated and corrected version of yesterday's news. They want today's news. (Oh, sure they do! That's why we're currently wading through 10 million column inches of recycled D-Day copy.) Or they'll dodge the question, saying there's no convenient place in the newspaper for monumental rehashes. Or they'll say, let the ombudsman do it in his Sunday column. Or correct errors in the corrections box.

The good folks that put a fresh copy of on your computer screen every day have no fear of admitting error -- mostly because we're so used to screwing up. So, let me apologize/retract this April 21, 2003 post about Iraqi WMD that relied too heavily on reporting by the New York Times' Judith Miller -- who, as it turned out, relied way too heavily on Chalabi and his defectors. The story I linked to in that post was one of the stories the Times has since retracted.


posted by Dan on 06.05.04 at 04:58 PM


A part of me thinks this post is great. I think it is a great mix of honesty and humble humor.

At the same time I think that there is something very disturbing under the surface in the big media failure to admit big mistakes, and the failure of our government to admit mistakes.

How much does it worry you that America can be led to war on mistakes (honest or otherwise)? Whatever you think about this war, the fact is that if Bush said there are no WMD in Iraq we would not be at war in Iraq. And 800 brave soldiers would still be alive today. This is the haunting truth of the story of the last 2 years that people seem a bit too eager to forget and move past.

posted by: Rich on 06.05.04 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

Yea, I'd love to see a post about that.

posted by: Hal on 06.05.04 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

That was plausible story. what´s in that story that was proved not true? : nada, nothing

and what was proved true? : some

posted by: lucklucky on 06.05.04 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

An apology is acceptable only if you intend not to repeat the offensive behavior. Will you cease using the non-credible New York Times as a source?

posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 06.05.04 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

Dan, I have to give you credit for even mentioning this story. I've hardly seen conservatives talk about this at all. The WMD Times scandal is about a billion times larger than the Jason Blair scandal. But is hardly getting any play becacuse its a) about something that actually matters rather than stupid insignificant stories Blair published and b) requires complexity and nuance c) Can't use it as a stick to beat affirmative action over the head with. For some reason, Sullivan, for all his rants against times Times, forgot to mention this one. Some of the other wingnuts are almost comimcal in their times hatred, and they all seemed to ignore the Times biggest botch of this decade.

posted by: Jor on 06.05.04 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

BTW, How the hell do any wingnuts complain about the "liberal" nyt when they were publishing Admin pro-war propoganda on A1 all through the buildup to hthe war, and by their own acknowledgement burrying contrary stories on A17?

posted by: Jor on 06.05.04 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

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