Monday, May 16, 2005
This is ridiculous: Last week's report in Newsweek that alleged a U.S. interrogator at Gitmo tossed a copy of the Koran in the crapper has turned out to be "innaccurate." This development comes after the report apparently was resposible for riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan which left four dead and more than 60 injured.
Let's set aside the fact that only Muslims would riot over that destruction of one book.
This is another black eye for journalism, and the editor of Newsweek just doesn't get what he did wrong.
"Everybody did what they were supposed to do," he said. "We were dealing with a credible source…. We approached officials for comment…. We fully disclosed the whole chain of events so the public could reach its own conclusions," he said.
"I don't see what we did professionally wrong in this case."
You got the story wrong, that's what you did. In your original report, you state:
Investigators probing interrogation abuses at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur'an down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash. [emphasis added]
Sources = More than one.
Your non-apology "apology":
Their information came from a knowledgeable U.S. government source, and before deciding whether to publish it we approached two separate Defense Department officials for comment. One declined to give us a response; the other challenged another aspect of the story but did not dispute the Qur'an charge.
That's one source. One. Not "sources."
And from your description of the vetting process at Newsweek, it's made to sound that the final version of the story was presented as a whole to two Defense Department officials -- that is an unusual, though not unheard of, practice for a professional journalist.
Newsweek's defense for its shoddy work sounds like an echo of CBS News' (in)famous defense of the forged Bush National Guard memos. CBS took as confirmation that the Microsoft Word documents were real because the administration official they sprung them on didn't immediately denounce them as forgeries. Newsweek does the same -- because the official didn't deny something when it was sprung upon him/her, then the magazine concludes they've verified it.
Journalism. Wound. Self-inflicted.