Angry New Yorker

Thursday, May 27, 2004
Has The New York Times Learned Anything?

The chattering classes have been agog since The New York Times admitted, on Wed. May 26, at A10, that it had published "articles [that] included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, . . . [that were] later overtaken by more and stronger information" and that "[t]he Times never followed up on the veracity of this source [an informant] or the attempts to verify his claims." Right before our eyes the gray lady continues to turn as black as a piece of cheese left in the sun.

But in this self same issue, The New York Times continues its poor news coverage. [Full disclosure, I've been published twice in The New York Times, and interviewed once for a technology article in the Times]. Two pages before the page A10 sackcloth ceremony, in the same Wed., May 26th issue, the Times runs an article, A Routine Burst of Chaoes Leaves a G.I. Wounded, that reads like a DNC anti-war screed. One sentence particularly raised a red flag, because it highlights the viewpoint of the author, Dexter Filkins, [profile here] that, essentially, "oh, dear, things are terrible here in Iraq." On page A8, col 6, Filkins describes the ranking Iraqi officer on the scene thus:
Ayad Salman, the ranking Iraqi officer at the station, directed his men back to their posts. Mr. Salman seemed a tired man, his face drawn, perhaps by the loss of too many friends.
(emphasis added).

Note: That Mr. Salman seemed tired is a factual observation. Writing that is news reporting. However, indicating he's tired because of "the loss of too many friends" is fiction and speculation. If Mr. Filkins' reporting can support the statement, the "perhaps" should have been excised. Yet there it is in black and white. Mr. Salman's face could have been drawn because he ate a bad fig and was up all night, or he had a fight with his wife that morning, or a dozen other reasons. The important point, however, is that the Times' reporter attributes Salman's long, dare I say Kerry-ish face, to the pain of fallen comrades.

As an experienced journalist I'm always willing to give editors and writers the benefit of the doubt, because, unlike democrats who apparently expect perfection from all here in this vale of tears, I know mistakes are made all the time even by the best of us. This doesn't necessarily excuse mistakes, but acknowledges that not every mistake is part of some vast "conspiracy." So, maybe Filkins did speak to Salman, who told him he was tired because of losing friends, or maybe the editor back at the times added this to reflect his/her own world view. But the bottom-line is that this speculation shouldn't have been in the piece at all, which itself, frankly, shouldn't have found a home on A10 of the Times' news well.

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