Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek Commits Unpardonable Sin


I am quite sure everyone is aware of the Newsweek debacle that has resulted in an avoidable loss of life. This is yet another example of the mainstream media rushing to get the scoop while disregarding the need for fact checking and common sense.

A refresher:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newsweek magazine said on Sunday it erred in a May 9 report that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to the victims of deadly Muslim protests sparked by the article.

Editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine inaccurately reported that U.S. military investigators had confirmed that personnel at the detention facility in Cuba had flushed the Muslim holy book down the toilet.

The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza. In the past week it was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Malaysia and by the Arab League.

On Sunday, Afghan Muslim clerics threatened to call for a holy war against the United States.

The blogosphere and other media, perhaps none better than Glen Reynolds of Instapundit, have covered it extensively. He had these points to make regarding Newsweek's admission of error:

Two points: (1) If they had wrongly reported the race of a criminal and produced a lynching, they'd feel much worse -- which is why they generally don't report such things, a degree of sensitivity they don't extend to reporting on, you know, minor topics like wars; and (2) If a blogger had made a similar mistake, with similar consequences, we'd be hearing about Big Media's superior fact-checking and layers of editors.

People died, and U.S. military and diplomatic efforts were damaged, because -- let's be clear here -- Newsweek was too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush Administration and the military look bad.

I have a third point to add:

(3) If the same sources had said The Holy Bible had been flushed instead of the Koran, would the gang at Newsweek have even found it newsworthy?

I have my doubts.

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