Friday, June 05, 2009


Here's a rather striking ednote from the Nation's Newspaper o'Record:

A front-page article and headline on May 21 reported findings from an unreleased Pentagon report about prisoners who have been transferred abroad from the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The article said that the Pentagon had found about one in seven of former Guantánamo prisoners had "returned to terrorism or other militant activity," or as the headline put it, had "rejoined jihad."

Those phrases accepted a premise of the report that all the former prisoners had been engaged in terrorism before their detention. Because that premise remains unproved, the day the article appeared in the newspaper, editors changed the headline and the first paragraph on the Times Web site to refer to prisoners the report said had engaged in terrorism or militant activity since their release.

Ever wonder why a course in news editing includes those annoying informal logical fallacies? It's to raise the chances that somebody somewhere in the food chain will point out that a premise of "rejoining jihad" is "having jihadded in the first place" (much as "are you still a shill for the neocons?" entails your having shilled for the neocons in the past).

The Times isn't the only paper to beg the occasional question. It would have been nice if someone slotting the 1A Obama package down in Charlotte had noted that Iran can't "bow to international demands to halt its nuclear weapons program" unless it has a nuclear weapons program (see "are you still..." above). But the correction underscores a couple of points that are worth repeating.

The Times isn't perfect. It's capable of cluelessness, arrogance and sloppiness, sometimes all at once. But it still does journalism -- not only devoting a whale of a lot of time, space and money to the craft, but actually knowing good from bad. It might take two weeks to get in gear sometimes, but the Times has a mechanism for catching up to and fixing mistakes: factual, logical or conceptual. That's among the elements that will always distinguish real journalism from the brand on offer at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, where making things up is a matter of policy.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home