Stealth correction at the journal of record

by John Quiggin on July 3, 2007

Glen Greenwald took a few bites out the latest NYTimes transcription, by White House stenographer Michael Gordon, of Administration/military talking points in the campaign for war against Iran, made by Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, now US military spokesman in Iraq and previously, (not reported) Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq. So somebody at the Gray Lady apparently decided that the piece might be improved by a mininal amount of actual reporting, such as the fact that the claims in question have been repeatedly denied by the Iranian government (with backing, although this is not mentioned, from a large number of independent analysts).

What’s interesting to me is that these changes are not noted. But if the journal of record had attributed the remarks to the wrong general or mis-stated the spokesman’s position, the error would surely have been noted with a correction. A blogger who made a change like this in response to justified criticism would get accused, rightly, of a stealth correction. Shouldn’t the New York Times be held to at least as high a standard?

{ 9 comments }

1

Jim Henley 07.03.07 at 11:03 am

Isn’t this mainly a legacy-media legacy? In olden times, wire services routinely published updated versions of reports under the same title. And EME websites have done this with the evolving web versions of their stories for years. Frex, back when I was covering the Beltway sniper story, the Post would be running what eventually became tomorrow’s print story on today’s website, with a time stamp. As they updated and edited the article throughout the day, the time stamp changed but there was no “audit trail” identifying what had actually changed. You had to know the old version to recognize what had been updated.

I’m not saying it’s good that they proceed this way, only that it comes out of long habit.

2

trotsky 07.03.07 at 3:47 pm

What henley said.

And good grief, if American generals make substantial factual claims about Iranian involvement in fighting in Iraq, is that not news. Man, Greenwald is unhinged.

3

BillCinSD 07.03.07 at 4:13 pm

Can an unsubstantiated claim be considered substantial? The problem Trotsky is that Gordon just repeats what the General said, despite the fact that when this has been said in the recent past even GW Bush (likely through a spokesperson) said it wasn’t correct.

So sure it’s news, but only repeating one side, that has not been substantiated in the recent past, is the very definition of journalmalism

4

gonzone 07.03.07 at 5:09 pm

Time for another blogger ethics panel!

5

Dan Collins 07.03.07 at 5:19 pm

Meanwhile, the MSM isn’t interested in Michael Yon’s report on al-Qaeda decapitations of women and children:

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/bless-the-beasts-and-children.htm

Not that Glenn would be apt to take seriously first-hand accounts from military.

6

MQ 07.03.07 at 5:44 pm

Good point, Dan. For every woman or child decapitated by Al-Qaeda, the U.S. military gets to kill five by accident, so it’s important to keep up on the tally.

7

theo 07.03.07 at 8:20 pm

After reading Michael Yon’s whole piece, I still have no idea whether the “Al-qaeda” are just recipients of the now-generic Iraqi term for Sunni insurgents — or if they’re actual foreign fighters. And neither, apparently, does he.

But does it really matter?

Dogs bite. Barbarians commit barbarities. Terrorists terrorize. Civil wars cause atrocities.

There are larger massacres in Baghdad every day.

Film at … never.

8

anonymous 07.04.07 at 12:35 pm

Don’t compare the first version you see on the web to the printed version. The former isn’t edited by the same people and doesn’t go through the same process.

9

greensmile 07.05.07 at 3:41 pm

Damn. I missed that, and only 8 comments. NY Times is still my best hope among MSM but when they start drinking the Cheneyade, ….well, that was one of the preludes to our descent into the hell that is Operation Enuring Freedom [or whatever they call that bloody mess in Iraq these days]

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