Wednesday, February 22, 2006

NYT: One sided "reporting" (Neil A. Lewis)

Neil A. Lewis (or "Neil A. Lewis" if the piece was worked over by others) files the laughable "3 Charged With Conspiring to Kill U.S. Troops in Iraq" in this morning's New York Times? Why laughable? When district attorney press releases pass for "reporting" -- that's laughable on the laugh or cry scale.

Three men were indicted (Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman el-Hindi and Wassim I. Mazloum) and that's really the end of facts for Lewis' article. If Alberto Gonzales and Gregory A. White have a case, they'd best consider trying it in the court of law and not in the court of public opinion. But why bother when a Neil A. Lewis is perfectly willing to throw journalism out the door and craft a press release for you?

Statements by Gonzales and White (more so Gonzales because he's the chatty Cathy here) are taken as fact. They haven't been proven as such, they may not even be made in a court of a law. But Lewis is happy to run with them. Equally serving the prosecution is Lewis' inability or unwillingness to attempt to provide the defense's version. It's one-sided "From the steps of the court house here is the prosecution's case!" type of "coverage." It's sensationalism, it's not news, it's not reporting.

But maybe if you're a paper that the government is investigating, you do everything you can to butter up to Gonzales?

The three men may be guilty, they may not be. A court of law will decide that, not the New York Times, not Neil A. Lewis. (Interesting sidebar, they're charged with conspiracy. When the government charges conspiracy, the Times runs with it. It's only when others charge it that the Times feels the need to boo and hiss.) Readers? They, like justice, aren't served by one-sided reporting.

While Lewis accepts as gospel the prosecution's side, the Associated Press is able to actually speak to defense attornies as well as neighbors and family of the three indicted. From John Seewer's "3 Charged With Planning to Attack Troops:"

El-Hindi's attorney, Steve Hartman, called his client's charges overzealous.
"It doesn't help that he's Jordanian," Hartman said. "I think he's caught up in the Justice Department's vigorous work."
At Mazloum's family's home in suburban Toledo, his sister said Mazloum is a conscientious person who could not be caught up in a terrorist conspiracy.
"Whenever he goes out at night, he always calls my mom to let her know where he's at and what he's doing," 14-year-old Dima Mazloum said.
FBI agents knocked on the door around 7:30 a.m. Sunday and handcuffed her brother when he answered the door, she said. They did not explain why they were arresting him, she said.
The agents searched the house for an hour, taking about $1,700 and two pieces of paper from Mazloum's wallet, as well as a paintball gun, Dima Mazloum said.
His mother, Salwa Elkechen, 44, said her son helped support her and take care of their home. She broke down in tears, saying, "Take my home, take my money, take everything. I just need my son."

It may not win warm hugs from Gonzales but it's a little closer to the "balance" the Times loves so much.

The e-mail address for this site is