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May 17, 2005
DO NEWSWEEK'S PROBLEMS stem from a lack of newsroom diversity?
UPDATE: Jay Rosen: "We have to chart the sourcing a little to see how thin the original story actually was."
And Wagner James Au emails:
Glenn, the Newsweek retraction has got me thinking: how many *other* MSM allegations of US military abuse/torture of prisoners were based on a single anonymous sources? How many of them depended solely on the "testimony" of Al Qaeda training camp graduates, who are taught to fabricate claims of abuse?
This could be the ideal challenge of bloggers (the media is hardly inclined to police itself), going through past stories with a fine tooth comb. (And I've no doubt many exist.)
Newsweek has set a precedent by retracting this one. Will other media outlets retract their own poorly sourced stories, when confronted?
Watch it, WJA -- you'll never write for Salon again with suggestions like that . . . .
InstaPunk, meanwhile, has a huge scoop that's just waiting for Time or Newsweek to pick it up. And the sourcing is impeccable.
UPDATE: Former Newsweek staffer Alex Wong writes:
I just can't see a less established reporter getting a pass on such a fact w/o more backup documentation than the hearsay of one anonymous source. Newsweek's prizing of their Bigfoots is on a higher level than the other publications I've worked for. It's not necessarily a bad thing -- branding a couple of writers is a pretty good business strategy. But perhaps, this time, it bit the mag in the ass.
Perhaps. Meanwhile, reader Kathy Caldwell emails:
Chris Matthews was turning himself into a pretzel last night trying to rationalize the legitimacy of the Newsweek story and essentially ended up with the opinion that even if the reporting was factually incorrect, because of the Army's previous abuses it was philosophically reported correctly. It was, basically, the Dan Rather argument. It was painful to watch and Matthews really looked desperate to me. Also, isn't there an association between Newsweek and MSNBC?
Yes, there is. Though that didn't stop me from slamming them. (The transcript for that show, which I didn't see, isn't up yet. It'll be here when it is.)
MORE STILL: Michael Silence posts the Knoxville News-Sentinel's policy on anonymous sources. Perhaps the folks at Newsweek should give it a read.