May 28, 2004

It's outrageous to have a simple editor's note buried on page A10, while their repetition of the administrations' lies was consistently given top billing on the front pages of the paper."

It's the Media, Stupid.

USA Today: "Unlike Blair's deceptions, Miller's lies provided the
pretext for war. Her lies cost lives. If only the
Times had done the same kind of investigation of
Miller's reports as it had with Blair," says Amy
Goodman, author of The Exception to the Rulers, which
takes Miller to task for her stories. "It's outrageous to have a simple editor's note buried on page A10, while their repetition of the administrations' lies was consistently given top billing on the front pages of the paper."
Harvard media analyst Alex Jones, a former Times
reporter, said that because of the Times' place in
American journalism many media outlets follow its
lead "when it gets something wrong, it is obliged to
do a self-examination and tell the people who read it
what went wrong and why. I don't think the Times has
done that," and in the short-term, at least, may have
harmed its credibility.

Break the Bush Cabal Stranglehold on the "US
Mainstream News Media," Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)


http://www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/mediamix/2004-05-26-media-mix_x.htm

Posted 5/26/2004 9:30 PM Updated 5/27/2004 12:35
AM

'N.Y. Times' criticized for quiet mea culpa
For the second time in a year, the nation's so-called
paper of record, The New York Times, has admitted that
the record was flawed.

Judith Miller's reports whose unnamed sources
frequently included Ahmad Chalabi have been widely
challenged.
The New York Times via AP

But unlike the Jayson Blair scandal, in which the
paper detailed how the reporter fabricated and
plagiarized a string of stories, the note "from the
editors" published in Wednesday's newspaper did not
single out anyone at theTimes for blame. Instead, in
an 1,100-word note, editors said it was "past time"
the Times examined its reporting in the lead-up to the
Iraq war.

The note called some reports about supposed stockpiles
of weapons of mass destruction "flawed" because they
relied too heavily on now-suspect sources with
insufficient corroboration. A major source was Ahmad
Chalabi, an Iraqi exile (and former favorite of the
Bush administration) who, along with others, had an
interest in seeing the United States topple Saddam
Hussein.

The administration then used the reports to help
bolster the case for war.

The note said editors "fully intend to continue
aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record
straight."

But, while some in the news industry praised the paper
for coming clean, others said the note fell far short
of full disclosure, that it was long overdue, and that
its message was obtuse at best.

"The Times' exercise would leave any
less-than-knowledgeable reader wondering what the hell
they were talking about," says former Newsweek chief
Osborn Elliot.

Others blasted the paper for not singling out and
sanctioning Times reporter Judith Miller, whose
reports which often used unnamed sources, frequently
Chalabi have been widely challenged.

"Unlike Blair's deceptions, Miller's lies provided the
pretext for war. Her lies cost lives. If only the
Times had done the same kind of investigation of
Miller's reports as it had with Blair," says Amy
Goodman, author of The Exception to the Rulers, which
takes Miller to task for her stories. "It's outrageous
to have a simple editor's note buried on page A10,
while their repetition of the administrations' lies
was consistently given top billing on the front pages
of the paper."

Miller could not be reached. Times' public editor
Daniel Okrent says he plans to write about the note in
his Sunday column, but would not discuss its content.

The reporting in question occurred under former
executive editor Howell Raines, who lost his job after
the Blair scandal. In a note posted on Jim Romenesko's
media Web site Wednesday, Raines said he disagreed
with the contention "that problems in the WMD stories
came about because some editors felt pressured to get
scoops into the paper before the necessary checking
had taken place."

Raines' replacement at the Times, Bill Keller, could
not be reached. In a staff memo, he said the editor's
note was "not an attempt to find a scapegoat or to
blame reporters for not knowing then what we know now.
... (It) will not satisfy our most vociferous critics,
but it is not written for them. It is an attempt to
set the record straight, something we do as a point of
journalistic pride."

Harvard media analyst Alex Jones, a former Times
reporter, said that because of the Times' place in
American journalism many media outlets follow its
lead "when it gets something wrong, it is obliged to
do a self-examination and tell the people who read it
what went wrong and why. I don't think the Times has
done that," and in the short-term, at least, may have
harmed its credibility.

Others noted that misinformation flowed before, during
and after the war, and that blame can't be laid solely
at the Times' doorstep. But "there's no question that
when the Times reports something on the front page,
without skepticism, it carries weight," Jones says.

The Times' reports on WMD did just that for policy
makers and media alike, says David Paletz, a Duke
University political science professor. "The Times has
a reputation for being skeptical and critical of those
in power. Its reports may explain in part Democrats'
docility in the run-up to the war. If the Times had
been publishing more skeptical stories, some Democrats
could have been emboldened to challenge the run-up."

George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's This Week, said
the note "was the brave and right thing to do.
Everyone has been wondering how we got it so wrong,
not just the media but also intelligence agencies, the
Bush administration, Congress, even the U.N."

Martin Kaplan, dean of the Norman Lear Center at the
University of Southern California's Annenberg School
for Communication, says that "for people who are
serious and thoughtful, the Times is a gatekeeper of
quality in terms of what's credible and believable.
When it published those pieces, it sent signals which
legitimized our going to war and calmed people's fears
that we were rushing. It turns out that the Times was
hoodwinked just like the rest of the country."

Perhaps, but for anyone to suggest that the Times
reports led us to war is "absurd," says
Stephanopoulos. The former Clinton administration
communications chief says the newspaper's influence is
sometimes exaggerated. "In this Internet age, there is
so much information. ... No single newspaper has that
much power or influence. People aren't waiting for a
single newspaper to hit their doorstep at 6 a.m. to
set the agenda."

Contributing: Gary Strauss


Posted by richard at May 28, 2004 10:16 AM