November 29, 2006

AP's Duping Over 'Burning Six' Enters MSM

An Associated Press story about six Sunni men being dragged from their mosque in Iraq, doused with kerosene, and burned alive continues to unravel, while AP spokeswoman Linda Wagner does her best Dan Rather impression (my first post from Saturday).

AP based their atrocity story on the word of Iraqi police Captain Jamil Hussein. Problem: the Iraqis say Hussein is not a police captain and does not work for them in any capacity. In response, AP has played the fake-but-accurate card that worked so well for Dan Rather.

Finally, other elements of the mainstream media are taking notice, after several days of exposes by bloggers.

From USA Today's On Deadline:

Today, responding to questions from On Deadline about AP's statement that it stands by its story, Lt. Dean e-mailed us. He said that on Thursday,

"Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the official (Iraqi) Ministry of Interior spokesmen, will begin his regularly scheduled press conference at noon tomorrow with a statement that Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee."

Hussein is the main source AP cited in its original story about the burnings.

Dean added that "We understand the challenges of reporting in Iraq due to the security situation, and we are in no way targeting AP specifically.

"However, when we continue to see reporting of stories which cannot be corroborated using questionable Iraqi sources, we feel it is our obligation to track the credibility of the source and ask what verification was used no matter which media outlet the report came from.

"We have had numerous stories reported through wire services which were proven to have not happened at all, yet the media outlets concerned dismissed verification on the ground for their sources."

When the story was first questioned, AP sent reporters scurrying to find eyewitnesses, none of whom were named, to verify the story, and said that their reporters had been in Hussein's police office and used him as a source for multiple stories. That's true. Hussein's name has appeared in wire service stories since April of this year. Stories that are bound to come under much closer scrutiny, now that an Iraqi Brigadier General is about to announce that AP's source is a fraud.
This may indicate that the Associated Press has a problem, not just with this particular source, but with the reporters who vouched for him.

AP spokeswoman Linda Wagner's response was disingenuous:

"Navy Lieutenant Dean's statement seems to suggest that the news media should work solely from a government list of 'authorized sources.' But a free press cultivates a wide range of sources. That's what AP did in this case, as it always does."
No, Linda, Lt. Dean's statement suggests that you have a responsibility to verify your sources, even (especially) when they're telling you what you want to hear.

More on the bogus burning six story from Curt at Flopping Aces, who has been covering the story since it began.

By Bluto06:19 PM | Comments |