Monday, January 02, 2006
Hidden gem: On Friday, the editor of the Bedford Standard-Times -- the newspaper that was hoaxed by a college student claiming that Homeland Security agents had interviewed him after he tried to check out Mao's "Little Red Book" -- wrote an informative column explaining how it all happened.
The paper continues to hide the identity of the hoaxster. No reason is given, but whatever the reason, it's bad for journalism. It's one thing to promise anonymity to sources, but sources need to be aware that if they spin yarns or willfully deceive the reporter that they've lost the right have their names kept out of the paper. Newspapers' duty is to the truth, not to protect liars.
Maybe I'm too cynical, but something that would set off alarm bells for me is this gem from one of the UMass Dartmouth professors who first floated the false tale.
Professor [Brian Glyn] Williams, who has traveled and researched the Middle East extensively, was asked whether he believed the president's authorization for tapping the phones and e-mails of U.S. citizens talking with foreigners was going too far. He told reporter [Aaron] Nicodemus that he believes his own calls were tapped while he was speaking once with the foreign minister of Chechnya, scene of a bloody civil war with Russian forces and numerous acts of terrorism..
Maybe his phone was tapped. Probably it wasn't. But telling that sort of thing to a reporter with zippo evidence to support it betrays something more than the normal everyday paranoia that all of us feel.