Here’s a little object lesson in journalistic ethics. The New Republic publishes incendiary reports from Iraq by Scott Thomas Beauchamp. They turn out to be a tissue of ideologically motivated fantasy and fabrication. The New Republic, or at least its editor Frnaklin Foer, stonewalls for as long as possible–no, longer than was possbile, because by the time he came out with his pathetic 10,000-word pseudo-explanation he had become a laughing stock. (See, for example, “Fog of Foer” at PowerLine.)
Contrast the behavior of Foer with that of Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online. W. Thomas Smith Jr., one of the contributors–now a former contributor–to NRO’s military blog, had posted some controversial pieces about, inter alia, the threat Hezbollah represented to Lebanon. The veracity of those posts was questioned. Lopez instantly launched an investigation and, after a week or so, concluded that Smith’s reporting was suspect. Today, she posts a crisply worded summary of the episode, including this apology:
I apologize to all of our readers. We should have required Smith to clearly source all of his original reporting from Lebanon. Smith let himself become susceptible to spin by those taking him around Lebanon, so his reporting from there should be read with that knowledge. (We are attaching this note to all his Lebanon reporting.) This was an editing failure as much as it was a reporting failure. We let him down, and we let you down, and we’re taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
What a difference. Any editor can be taken in by a rogue contributor. Lopez shows how an honest and honorable editor should respond.