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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Who Punked Newsweek? 

From Pat Murphy of the Idaho Mountain Express:
[T]he Washington media, the ultimate lure for tips about corrupt or mischievous conduct in government, seem blind when they're being exploited and humiliated by tipsters with their own agendas.

Remember "Operation Tailwind," CNN's investigative debacle that alleged U.S. forces had used poison gas in Laos on American GI defectors? CNN had to retract the arduously produced TV spectacular and admit it couldn't prove allegations provided by "sources" for the report.

Then came the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame by a White House "source" in revenge for criticism of the Bush administration by her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who alleged hokum about Iraq's nuclear threat . . . at least two reporters face jail time for refusing to name the person who leaked Plame's name.

Now, Newsweek magazine is pulling back from an item provided by a "source" reporting that the Quran, Islam's holiest text, was flushed down a toilet by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Besides unnamed sources, what do these three episodes share in common?

The media taking the flack for being taken in by sources have not revealed the source names, sticking to the code that sources must be protected lest journalists can't do their jobs.

Big mistake. Sophisticated sources are sucking in naïve media, either to promote a political agenda (blowing the cover of Valerie Plame) or to simply further demonize the "liberal" media (Newsweek's Quran desecration item) . . . .

The pact between reporters and tipsters should be explicit: any phony information will result in the source's name being revealed, including public officials.
And while we're on the subject: why is it that stories like these are never retracted?

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