Patterico's Pontifications

5/17/2005

L.A. Times Prisons Corrections Page

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 5:50 pm

They’ve done it again: put a story about corrections (as in prisons) on their corrections page.

I noticed it this morning, but I get tired of pointing it out. Luckily, there are other critics to take up the slack . . .

Unclear on the Concept

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Media Bias — Patterico @ 12:14 pm

Jay Rosen noticed something interesting this morning. The Los Angeles Times has an article today about Newsweek’s questionable use of an anonymous source. The L.A. Times article quotes a source from Newsweek, who chooses to remain — you guessed it — anonymous:

A Newsweek journalist familiar with the reporting on the article agreed with his editor’s regrets Monday, but said it appeared the administration was seizing on the error to minimize the abuse allegations.

“The issue of how prisoners are treated at Guantanamo has not gone away,” said the journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Now they want to deflect that by talking about how irresponsible Newsweek magazine was.”

I’m not necessarily critical of this. But I can’t help but find it amusing.

I Hereby Retract My Retraction of My Failure to Issue a Retraction

Filed under: International,Media Bias,Morons — Patterico @ 7:02 am

You gotta love those Newsweek editors. They can’t keep their story straight from one second to the next.

Exhibit 1 is from today’s Washington Post:

Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker said he thought the magazine had already “retracted what we think we may have gotten wrong” in an editor’s note published Sunday and in media interviews. “We’ve called it an error,” he said. “We’ve called it a mistake.”

Exhibit 2 is from yesterday’s New York Times:

Mr. Whitaker said in an interview later: “We’re not retracting anything. We don’t know what the ultimate facts are.”

Emphasis added for comic effect.

The Really Interesting Question is Why You Consider That Such an Interesting Question

Filed under: Dog Trainer,International,Media Bias — Patterico @ 7:00 am

The L.A. Times says the flap over Newsweek‘s flawed Koran-flushing story is exaggerated:

The more interesting question may not be how Newsweek goofed, but why the Muslim world is so ready to believe the story.

One could also ask why much of the Muslim world believes the Jews were behind 9/11. But how “interesting” would that question be?

Reporting Information from a Single Source

Filed under: Dog Trainer,International,Media Bias — Patterico @ 6:28 am

The Newsweek controversy has reopened a debate about what standards are necessary for publication, especially when there is only one source for an assertion, and that source will not go on the record.

I have argued that a media outlet should be allowed to tell its readers something that violates journalism’s “two-source” rule, if it considers the information reliable — as long as the outlet clearly informs its audience that it has no way of verifying the claim. For example, Captain’s Quarters recently published detailed information about the Gomery inquiry in Canada based upon a single source that the Captain deemed reliable. I think that decision made sense.

The L.A. Times editors who approved this article evidently agree:

A lawyer who helps represent a dozen detainees at Guantanamo Bay said Monday that on two separate occasions two prisoners told her that guards and interrogators desecrated the Koran. She spoke on condition of anonymity because high-level talks were underway with the State Department to win the release of her clients.

The lawyer acknowledged that she did not see damaged copies of the Islamic holy book. But she said she did not believe the prisoners could have collaborated on the story, because they told her the stories in separate interviews and they were not housed together.

There was no way to independently verify the lawyer’s statements.

Make a mental note of this example. Remember it the next time that the L.A. Times claims it couldn’t report something favorable to the Bush Administration because it came from only one source.

But I have no problem with this approach — as long as it is followed consistently. For me, the key is to tell readers what you know and what you don’t know. If you don’t pretend that an assertion has undergone more thorough scrutiny than it really has, then the reader knows how much weight to give the assertion.

In my view, being transparent about such matters is much better than simply asking the audience to trust a given media outlet to have done its vetting properly — because there is not a media outlet in existence whose vetting has not been shown wanting on occasion.

I’m not unsympathetic to the argument that certain types of allegations are so serious that they should be subject to the strict “two-source” rule. And anyone who does favor a strict application of that rule should agree that the Newsweek allegation was serious enough to require that standard. But I generally favor greater transparency over mechanical application of rules.

L.A. Times Blogs for a Day

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Dog Trainer,Politics — Patterico @ 6:27 am

The L.A. Times is running what appears to be a one-day blog about the mayor’s race.


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