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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 29, 2004

 
All The News The GOP Sees Fit To Print

Daniel Okrent says the paper failed in its WMD coverage prior to the war. Everybody is at fault and it's wrong to single anybody out in particular and the way to put this behind them is to finally report the truth. Great.

Here's the problem. Like the Bush administration, they seem to think that "taking responsibility" means acting as if it was some vague and ephemeral "somebody" who committed the act and then going on as if nothing happened. These are children's ethics.

The only way journalists will understand that repeatedly publishing and hyping incorrect information (particularly disinformation) is unacceptable is if they will pay a price for doing so. That's what grown-ups expect when they screw up. And the only way the public can be assured that The New York Times cares about its credibility is if it holds the people who made these massive errors responsible.

The New York Times recently fired Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg because they plagiarized and misrepresented the truth. Presumably, the paper did this because its credibility was at stake. They simply could not countenance publishing work that was not truthful because then people would stop believing what they printed and wouldn't buy the paper.

Yet, they have repeatedly allowed themselves to be used by GOP Washington players to further their agenda over the last twelve years and as a result have printed wrong or misleading information hundreds of times. Sometimes, as with the Wen Ho Lee story, they investigated the problems, issued a mea culpa and then moved on. Other times, as with the endless Whitewater and independent counsel stories, they simply never addressed it. The hyped WMD stories are only the latest in a series of politically motivated disinformation campaigns.

And, the problem remains. After twelve years of blown story after blown story, it is time for the press (and not just The NY Times) to either declare that they are extensions of the Republican Party or expose their sources when they've shown themselves to be purposefully passing incorrect information (which Okrent endorses as proper journalistic ethics.)

Judith Miller undoubtedly believes she is being unfairly scapegoated, but she is not. Blair and Bragg were fired for offenses that didn't lead to any real consequences other than a lot of journalistic navel gazing. Yet Miller, more than anyone, was a willing tool for certain political friends and sources and used her prestige and position on the paper of record to further their agenda to take this country into a war. That is inexcusable. However, The New York Times has decided to excuse her and others like Patrick Tyler and Jill Abrahamson and is allowing them to keep their jobs.

Fine. If the paper wishes to hang its credibility on journalists like this then it obviously no longer cares about it. Therefore, the New York Times is collectively guilty and should be held responsible for the actions of these failed journalists.

The paper of record has officially chosen to became just another daily rag. RIP Gray Lady.








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