Roger L. Simon

Living in the Post-Rather Universe

The Egyptian blogger Big Pharoah was kind enough to copy me on some email he just sent the Belmont Club, regarding the Associated Press and the recent assassinations of electoral workers in Baghdad. He was reminding us that this wasn’t the first time that that particular news agency has mysteriously (and very recently) scooped the rest of the media when it came to an horrendous act of terror. As Big Pharoah noted in his email, “it was AP that gave Al Jazeera a videotape showing the execution of an Italian hostage.”

What? How did they get that? Are we entitled to know? Are we entitled to know why the Associated Press’ still (to my knowledge) anonymous photographer was able to stand fearlessly in the middle of the street and shoot photo after photo of killings by thirty “insurgents.” Perhaps he or she was wearing a cast iron suit. We don’t know. Or, as Belmont Club points out, perhaps he or she knew that no one would harm them. After all, he or she had been notified in advance that there would be a “demonstration.”

In the old days, journalistic anonymity of this sort was accepted as necessary for the pursuit of the story–that is, the truth. Journalists were allowed to protect their sources. But we live in a different universe now. The New York Times allowed one of its reporters, Jayson Blair, to lie time after time on the front page of its “newspaper of record.” Then the anchorman of one of our three major television networks promulgated forged documents on Sixty Minutes II and then, incredibly, continued to stonewall about it in the face of the most obvious proof.

How can anyone believe the mainstream media anymore? But these allegations about the Associated Press are even worse. If true–and I don’t, of course, know that they are–they mean that people working with that news agency are embedded with the “insurgents,” that they are participating in murder, aiding and abetting it. The Associated Press owes us full disclosure and a full explanation in both these instances. Just like CBS, their perceived integrity and their business depends on our trust. Saying accusations are “ridiculous,” but providing no facts only makes us more suspicious.