Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Like many others, I am keeping up with progress in Iraq as best as I can, given the sometimes vast difference in pictures provided by the traditional media, official sources and un-official, non-traditional reports from actual participants (soldiers, civilians and Iraqis alike). Like many, I am turned off, though not surprised, by the often mindless Abu Ghraib feeding frenzy the press have given us lately. A prime example of this is the Boston Globe’s attempt to be bestest and firstest and being duped by Internet porn as a result of not exercising their supposed journalistic skepticism.
The most surreal piece of this whole episode, for me, was the Globe’s ombudsman’s remarks, that totally missed the real issue at hand. I sent the ombudsman the following, with no reply from her (in fairness, I did not expect any, as I am sure she was being buried in e-mail at the time):
In the subject article (linked above), you matter-of-factly state that the Globe "decided it was better to write the story, raise questions within it, and let voters judge Turner's actions", despite the fact that "the photos were unverified -- and there was reason to doubt them". You later say, though, that the Globe's "Mistake No. 1 [was] a misperception and a miscommunication, perhaps attributable to simple human error" regarding publication of the picture.
In this regard, I feel I share many others' feelings to say that "Mistake No. 1" should more properly be identified as the decision to give a story that is entirely based upon unverified and doubtful photos such a strong lede. If a City Councilor has presented unverified and doubtful photos of UFOs or Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster would you have chosen the same path? Perhaps more to the point, if he had been presenting unverified and doubtful photos of children killed by Iraqi insurgents would your response have been the same?
I feel you fail to recognize that the real issue is not the procedure by which inappropriate material found its way into print, as all reasonable people understand that human processes do fail. The real issue is why the editorial staff of the Globe seems to be more willing to accept and believe unverified and doubtful accusations provided they are made against the military or the Administration. It is this issue you so off-handedly dismiss. It would seem prudent to ask why the article "seemed to give weight to [Turner's] case" in the eyes of many readers. Perhaps it is because such a slant is perceived to be the norm in the Globe vice the exception.
By completely ignoring the question of "did the article and photo show a level of attention appropriate for unverified and doubtful accusations?" you only contribute to the perception that sensational reporting that sheds a negative light on the military and the Administration is the norm for the Globe. I cannot help but think that the Globe missed an excellent opportunity to objectively evaluate its editorial decision and candidly acknowledge an error.