Dec
01
2007

Tortured Justifications for Bad Journalism

NPR Baghdad correspondent Anne Garrels (Morning Edition, 10/26/07) presented listeners with an unusual exclusive: the results of an interrogation conducted by a Shiite militia. Garrels described being escorted by Mahdi Army members to hear the accounts of three prisoners--supposedly renegade members of the militia. While Garrels acknowledged that “the three detainees had clearly been tortured,” she went on to describe the contents of their confessions as though they contained credible information: They were trained in roadside bombs and car bombings in Iran. They say they worked for money and that their orders were to attack Americans and sow suspicion and […]

Dec
01
2007

SoundBites

Bananas Journalism In reporting that Chiquita Brands “admitted it had paid $1.7 million to a Columbian paramilitary unit . . . over a six-year period,” USA Today’s David Lynch (10/30/07) framed the story with this lead: “At first, the allegations in a federal courtroom sounded like the sort of thing conspiracy-minded college freshmen dream up during late-night bull sessions. A major U.S. corporation stood accused of routinely funneling large sums of money to a vicious right-wing Latin American militia that the United States government officially had branded a terrorist organization.” Actually, that sounds like something that college freshmen might learn […]

Dec
01
2007

Risky Business

It’s a dangerous business, being a Democrat. In an L.A. Times article headlined “Democrats Calculate Risk on Tax Hikes” (11/2/07), reporter Janet Hook led off: More than two decades after presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale called for tax increases—and lost the White House in a landslide—the Democratic Party is on the verge of a major political gamble: Some of its leading members are proposing an array of tax hikes on wealthier Americans. It’s not clear why Hook went back 27 years to a candidate who proposed tax hikes and lost when she could have gone back 14 years to a […]

Dec
01
2007

Coverage of Syria Airstrike Strikingly Familiar

When an apparent airstrike by Israel against Syria on September 6 was eventually linked to accusations of a secret Syrian nuclear program, the striking thing about the often muddled reporting was how much the credulous reaction to unsubstantiated claims resembled the similarly uncritical reporting about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. When the airstrike was first disclosed, the New York Times (9/12/07) quoted an unnamed U.S. military official saying “it was still unclear exactly what the jets hit.” The best guess from other unnamed officials was that the building housed “weapons caches” of arms from Iran, ultimately destined for Hezbollah […]