Wednesday, April 07, 2010


There’s journalism, and then there’s something I read in the paper this morning

by Larry Geller

I’m trying to pay attention to the thin column on page A3 of the Advertiser where they squeeze in world news. And where the squeezing can mislead readers, it seems.

Today there is an article titled “Military says it can’t find copy of video” (the one that Wikileaks releasaed, currently at 4,147,000 views on YouTube). The story ends:

Capt. Jack Hanzlik, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the military has not been able to locate the video in its files after being asked to authenticate the version online.

It’s the latest twist in a three-year saga that raises questions about the rules of engagement in battle and the safety of journalists sent to cover wars.

(The Advertiser story was apparently chopped by editors from a longer AP story, a version of which you can read here.)

Is the story wrong? It misleads, because what readers should know is not that questions are raised about the safety of journalists, but that the US military has actively targeted and killed journalists. I won’t even go into the “questions about the rules of engagement” that make it ok to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. For Rules of Engagement from 2006 through 2007, see this page.

To find out how concerned the US military is about “the safety of journalists sent to cover wars,” see US attacks on journalists noted (4/5/2010). The article is a sequence of tweets from Jeremy Scahill on US killing of journalists. Truth in 140 character bites.

The Advertiser did not choose to use another AP story available yesterday which included this statement from the Iraqi Journalists’ Union:

"This is another crime added to the crimes of the U.S. forces against Iraqi journalists and civilians," the head of the journalists’ union Mouyyad al-Lami said. "I call upon the government to take a firm stance against the criminals who killed the journalists."

As to the authentication issue, the news yesterday was clear that the video has already been authenticated. You might not know this from the chop job that appeared in the paper. The second AP story was clear:

A senior U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the video, confirmed that the footage was authentic but said the military could not confirm the identities of the Reuters employees in the film.

The Advertiser’s editing misleads, rather than informs, its readers.

Rant: We need to be able to rely on our daily paper, and so we need to push them to do their job. It’s one thing to talk about journalism in a meeting at the Plaza Club, and another to practice it each day as both a job and a calling.


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