Tuesday, May 17, 2005

NYT: Why's Newsweek retracting now and the Times can't afford to have one of their own staff cover the latest Abu Ghraib trial?

We'll start off with the topic everyone was talking about yesterday evening, Newsweek's caving.
From this morning's New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye and Neil A. Lewis's "Newsweek Says It Is Retracting Koran Report:"

After a drumbeat of criticism from the Bush administration and others, Newsweek magazine yesterday went beyond an apology it issued Sunday and retracted an article published May 1 that stated that American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had tried to rattle Muslim detainees by flushing a Koran down a toilet.
The original article was blamed for inciting widespread protests and riots in the Muslim world, where desecration of the Koran is viewed as an incendiary act, and where at least 17 people were killed in the ensuing violence.
"Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay," the statement from Newsweek said.
The carefully worded retraction came after the White House said the Newsweek article had damaged the image of the United States abroad. It reflected the severity of consequences that even one sentence in a brief news article can have at a time of intense anti-American sentiment overseas and political polarization, as well as extreme distrust of the mainstream media at home.

Eddie highlights Charles McGrath's "The Reporter Who Put Monica on the Map:"

In discussing the article yesterday, Mr. Isikoff, who supplied the source for the article, said: "Whenever something like this happens, you've got to take stock and review what you did - how the story was handled. The big point that leaps out is the cultural one. Neither Newsweek nor the Pentagon foresaw that a reference to the desecration of the Koran was going to create the kind of response that it did. The Pentagon saw the item before it ran, and then they didn't move us off it for 11 days afterward. They were as caught off guard by the furor as we were. We obviously blame ourselves for not understanding the potential ramifications."
Mark Whitaker, the editor of Newsweek, said in an interview yesterday, "Everybody behaved professionally and by the book in this case." Mr. Whitaker said no disciplinary action was being taken against the reporters because they did everything they should have done. "Grounds for discipline would be unethical behavior, fabrication, sloppy reporting or unwillingness to acknowledge the severity of the problem, and none of those things happened in this case."

No need for discplinary actions? Isikoff's remarks suggest the same. So why's the story being retracted and apologized for? Because reporting something had a reaction? Quick, better let everyone know to stop running Dear Abby! The news is the news. How people react to it or don't has little to do with news. (Though it has a great deal to do with gatekeeping and information management.)

If there's nothing for anyone to be discisplined over that could mean that Isikoff got something wrong. That happens. Sources can burn you. That's not a reflection on Isikoff unless he's allowed it to happen repeatedly. (Which doesn't appear to be the case.) But Isikoff offers that the Pentagon had the report for eleven days with no objection. If there's a problem with the facts reported, then it goes to the Pentagon and not to Isikoff. But this attitude that news should be soft and not be anything that results in reactions . . .

How do you respond to that? Zach says with a laugh and asks that we note the last paragraph from yesterday's entry on Newsweek:

In other related news, the nation's oldest newspaper, the New York Post, has announced that it will be apologizing for reporting that the Union won the Civil War while the Weather Channel has annouced that they regret all weather predictions, both the ones that they called correctly and the ones they got wrong.

Like Sabrina, I'm confused as to why the following story comes via the Associated Press? The Times didn't have anyone to assign to this story? "Soldier Is Found Guilty in Abu Ghraib Abuse:"

A military jury convicted a soldier Monday on all but one of the seven charges she faced for her role in the abuse of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
A panel of four Army officers and four senior enlisted soldiers convicted the soldier, Specialist Sabrina Harman, on one count of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of dereliction of duty.
The defendant, a 27-year-old reservist from Lorton, Va., was acquitted on one maltreatment count. Her sentencing hearing was scheduled to begin Tuesday. She faces a maximum of five and a half years in a military prison.

Barry e-mails asking if what we're about to highlight is a Reuters article or an AFP one? I have no idea, both are credited. "By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE" "Senate Democrats Fault U.S. in Iraq Oil Scandal:"

(Reuters) - The United States did not do enough to curb corruption by American companies involved in the United Nations' oil-for-food program in Iraq, say Democrats on a Senate committee investigating abuses in the program.
A report by the Democrats released late Monday said the State Department and the United States Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control had taken "virtually no steps" to ensure that American companies enforced sanctions against Iraq.

[Note: Print edition credits the story to AFP only. Online, it's credited to AFP in the byline and then Reuters in the dateline.]

Lynda e-mails to note Craig S. Smith's "French Senator Rebuts Report by U.S. Panel in Oil Inquiry:"

Charles Pasqua, a French senator implicated in the Iraqi oil-for-food abuse scandal, accused American investigators on Monday of a deliberate attempt to link France's political decisions before the current war in Iraq to reports of bribes paid by Saddam Hussein.
"Probably, they think I am close to Jacques Chirac and that I am his adviser," Mr. Pasqua told reporters on Monday, referring to allegations reiterated last week by the United States Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that he received lucrative oil contracts from Mr. Hussein. He repeated past denials that he had received anything.

Lloyd e-mails to note Steven Lee Myers' "Russian Court Delays Ruling in Fraud Trial of Oil Tycoon:"

The judges in Russia's most prominent criminal trial began reading their verdict on Monday against Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, once the country's richest man, indicating they had concluded that he and his partner had committed crimes, but then postponed a final verdict for at least another day.
The climax of Mr. Khodorkovsky's trial began to unfold in a crowded Moscow courtroom much as the government's legal assault has progressed from the start: clouded in confusion, prone to surprise and drowned out by the clamor of those accusing President Vladimir V. Putin of using the case to settle a personal or political score.

Rod e-mails to note Carl Hulse's "Senate Talks on Judicial Nominees Break Down:"

The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, broke off talks on Monday with his Republican counterpart on efforts to head off a showdown on judicial nominations, saying he could not consent to Republican demands.
"The negotiations are over," Mr. Reid said as he left the office of the majority leader, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee. "I have tried to compromise, and they want all or nothing, and I can't do that. It will have to be decided on the Senate floor, hopefully this week."

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

[Note: This post has been added to. The note after the AFP/Reuters story has been added.