Thursday, August 07, 2003
Well that's one heck of a mistake: From today's New York Times corrections desk:
An article on Sunday about attacks on the American military in Iraq over the previous two days, attributed to military officials, included an erroneous account that quoted Pfc. Jose Belen of the First Armored Division. Private Belen, who is not a spokesman for the division, said that a homemade bomb exploded under a convoy on Saturday morning on the outskirts of Baghdad and killed two American soldiers and their interpreter. The American military's central command, which releases information on all American casualties in Iraq, said before the article was published that it could not confirm Private Belen's account. Later it said that no such attack had taken place and that no American soldiers were killed on Saturday.
Repeated efforts by The Times to reach Private Belen this week have been unsuccessful. The Times should not have attributed the account to "military officials," and should have reported that the command had not verified the attack.
What will be the fallout from this mistake? Surely the Times knew that a private wasn't a spokesman. Privates are never spokesmen -- unless everyone else is dead (chain of command you know). When I covered Vandenberg AFB, the spokesman was usually at least a 2nd Lieutenant, sometimes a Major or a Lt. Colonel. In rare occasions it was the Air Force equivalent of a Sergeant.
Does the Times have another Jayson Blair in its house?