Aug 01 2005

Newsweek and the Real Rules of Journalism

Mistakes should be retracted—if the powerful are offended

Newsweek ran a sensational claim based on an anonymous source who turned out to be completely wrong. While one can’t blame the subsequent violence entirely on this report, it’s fair to say that credulous reporting like this contributed to a climate in which many innocent Muslims died. The inaccurate Newsweek report appeared in the magazine’s March 17, 2003 issue, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. It read in part: Saddam could decide to take Baghdad with him. One Arab intelligence officer interviewed by Newsweek spoke of “the green mushroom” over Baghdad—the modern-day caliph bidding a grotesque bio-chem farewell […]

Jul 20 2005

Letters to the Editor

In Search of Reliable Sources Thanks to you and all those who work with you both in offices and in the field for the very important watchdog work you do on the media. During a period when the media are manipulated perhaps more than in the entire history of our country, this activity takes on even greater significance. Since accurate and sufficient information is essential to a participatory electorate, a properly functioning democracy depends on people like yourselves. But you knew that. I am also writing to address a problem that you may be able to help with, although it […]

Jul 20 2005

SoundBites

James Weinstein, 1926-2005 “Jim Weinstein was a shining example of a truly independent journalist…. In his own way, he was in the tradition of George Seldes and I.F. Stone and Lincoln Steffens–muckraking journalists who challenged the received wisdom. He always asked ‘Why?’ and ‘Who is behind what?’ and ‘Where are the bodies buried?’ More than ever, we need journalists such as Jim, who insisted that we must think things through, that we must remember the past in order to understand the present and prepare for the future.” –Studs Terkel on In These Times founder James Weinstein (AlterNet, 6/19/05) A Shining […]

Jul 01 2005

‘We Do Not Speculate Here’

What O'Reilly means is anyone's guess

Cable news networks have devoted significant time to the case of Natalee Holloway, an Alabama teenager who disappeared in Aruba. But cable news’ most popular host has urged the media to exercise caution. On June 9, Fox News Channel‘s Bill O’Reilly explained, “As you may know, we do not speculate here on The Factor. We have no idea what happened to Natalee or why she left the bar with some Aruban men. I’ve heard some irresponsible media speculate about that, and it makes me angry.” For those who had followed O’Reilly’s coverage of the case, this must have been puzzling. […]

Jul 01 2005

The Downing Street Shuffle

Editor's Note

The Downing Street Memo seems like one of the stranger episodes in media history—with major media virtually ignoring dramatic new evidence in a major story, and then inventing peculiar excuses for why they hadn’t covered it. But in context, media behavior makes perfect sense. When George W. Bush claimed, throughout 2002 and 2003, that he saw war with Iraq as a last resort, journalists knew that was a lie. But as the New York Times Elisabeth Bumiller declared (Extra!, 1-2/05), “You can’t just say the president is lying.” Not only did they not say what they knew to be the […]