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The Newsweek story and its consequences

Posted by Richard on May 14, 2005

Over at Blackfive, Cassandra of Villainous Company is guest-blogging, and she’s well worth reading. In "Partners in Terror?", she has some thoughtful comments on press freedom and journalistic ethics in the context of the Newsweek story and its consequences:

War news comes to us through an odd filter. Somehow the Medal of Honor winner, the fallen hero rarely if ever makes the front page. His exploits are not passed from father to son to inspire dreams of similar deeds in a generation still growing to adulthood.

When we win a battle in some dusty, Godforsaken border town the bolded headline is more likely to read, "10 Marines killed".

Yet when we make a mistake, even if the story is unsubstantiated, the tale is bruited far and wide, often with deadly consequences for those on the front lines:

May 10, 2005: Anti-American rioting broke out in Jalalabad, when local Islamic radicals became aware of a story in an American newsmagazine, accusing U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay prison, of flushing pages of the Koran down a toilet as a way to intimidate Afghan prisoners, and get them to reveal information about Taliban or al Qaeda operations. Jalalabad is a pro-Taliban town, and many locals are still upset that the Taliban is no longer running the country.

Any positive news released by DOD is quickly dubbed "propaganda" by the media. But what name should we give to a constant barrage of negative news coverage that only presents one side of the story? And what do the networks who pay American dollars to our enemies for terrorist videos tell themselves? What is the management at Newsweek saying to itself this week, when good men have died because of an unsubstantiated story they published without considering the consequences?
I do not want to see the press muzzled, nor anyone hauled off to jail. But I cannot help but wonder: who was served by publication of this story? In their exercise of that freedom of speech we hold most dear, was there no thought for those who guarantee that right?

As they say, read the whole thing.

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