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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fact-checking? We Don't Need No Stinking Fact-checking!

Oops they did it again! From Editor & Publisher:

NEW YORK For the second time in less than a week, The New York Times today admitted to a serious error in a story. On Saturday it said it had misidentified a man featured in the iconic "hooded inmate" photograph from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Today it discloses that a woman it profiled on March 8 is not, in fact, a victim of Hurricane Katrina--and was arrested for fraud and grand larceny yesterday.

As it did in the Abu Ghraib mistake, the Times ran an editors' note on page 2 of its front section, along with a lengthy news article (this time on the front page of Section B). Again mirroring the Abu Ghraib episode, the newspaper revealed a surprising and inexplicable lapse in fact-checking on the part of a reporter and/or editor.

The original article, more than 1000 words in length, was written by Nicholas Confessore. He also wrote the news article about the error today. Without saying that he wrote the first story, he wrote today: "The Times did not verify many aspects of Ms. Fenton's claims, never interviewed her children, and did not confirm the identity of the man she described as her husband."
Fantastic! How deep can they dig their grave? They're already nearing Tiananmen Square, for God's sake.
The editors' note states:

"An article in The Metro Section on March 8 profiled Donna Fenton, identifying her as a 37-year-old victim of Hurricane Katrina who had fled Biloxi, Miss., and who was frustrated in efforts to get federal aid as she and her children remained as emergency residents of a hotel in Queens.

"Yesterday, the New York police arrested Ms. Fenton, charging her with several counts of welfare fraud and grand larceny. Prosecutors in Brooklyn say she was not a Katrina victim, never lived in Biloxi and had improperly received thousands of dollars in government aid. Ms. Fenton has pleaded not guilty.
Workin' in a coal mine
Goin' down down down
Workin' in a coal mine
Whop! about to slip down

1 comments:

Shawmut 3/24/2006 01:29:00 PM  

When a media organ has taken on the role of propaganga-pulpers they seem to feel free to print for the public whatever suits their aims. Accuracy seems to be the first hurdle they vault with Olympian facility. Whichever medium is used, their stories are given substance by another. To wit: a newspaper publishes a story, then, by theme-adherence, the electronic media picks up on it. By the time it reaches the public gumming it has so many legs, and done so many laps that it had to don fresh Nikes. The lie or distortion is given legitimacy and its life is secured. By the time corrections and redactions are made, the public is bored silly by all sorts of excuses from the clinical, to the "dog ate my homework", or to blaming it on their sources (who are always nameless). (Don't even try raise the notion that if anyone else acted upon 'hearing voices' they'd be consigned to rubber rooms.)

We are left to understand that reasonable accomodations should be considered as checking facts and vetting sources would be considered hazardous to their stealth.

The greatest frustration prevails in the acceptance that it is a measure employed by all extremes; thus the sophomoric justification: "Everyone's doing it, so it must be OK.".

"Caveat Lector" might be suitable to have over every headline followed by "Gullibility can be hazardous to your thoughts."

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