OK, I will admit I’ve only been paying sort of sidelined attention to the world outside of me this week, but I have managed to catch a whiff or two of the Newsweek story. Here’s what confuses me: Was it really “bad journalism”? The bit about the flushed Koran was, as far as I can tell, half of a sentence within a larger piece, and it wasn’t even a new charge: some British detainees reported the same thing last year, and there have routinely been reports of poor treatment. The new part, I assume, was that the Newsweek story said that the military had discovered this and included it within an internal report. This single line sparked massive protests and violence — the kinds of activity that would make any source on anything reconsider the wisdom of his/her decision to speak out — and the source then backed off of what he or she had said.
To me, that’s not necessarily bad reporting, particularly if everything that Newsweek‘s editor has said is true: that they showed the story to an independent (meaning, uninvolved) Pentagon source for confirmation, that they returned to the source and had the line confirmed, that no one ever said, prior to publication, that the line was wrong. It took the Pentagon how long to finally protest the line? Over 10 days? I see a small flaw in their citing “sources” plural if there was only a single guy behind it, but it looks as though they believed that they’d be able to fall back on the other confirmations if something fell through.
I’m actually curious about this, not asking to be argumentative: am I missing a report in which it’s said that the story was inaccurate, or is it still just that the source backed off his/her initial information? Has anyone offered to release the internal report to prove that this is wrong?
It bothers me that media outlets and journalists are increasingly coming under attack on at least two sides, both the side that seems to say report only that which can be easily proven (and which eventually slips into “report only that which you are handed”) and the side that says journalists have stopped being truly investigative and are too content to take what they’re given by the government. I’m also bothered by this whole assumption that it was the reporting of the act that sparked riots and violence, instead of the fact that so many people believe — and they probably aren’t wrong about this — that religious “torture” is something the American military uses.