Monday, May 16, 2005

On Newsweek's great big screwup

Okay, so Newsweek screwed up big time, and I'm pissed off beyond the telling of it. I'm not pissed off for all the reasons the conservatives are pissed off about it, because some liberal rag caused the death of 15 people in Afghanistan (although, truth be told, I can't help but be pissed off about that). And I'm not even pissed off for the reasons that Kos and Avedon (linked from Eschaton) are pissed off, for the times that the Bush administration has relied on one lousy source and even lied outright to accomplish their goals. I'm not going to start pointing the finger at everyone else I can be pissed off at, because I'm pissed off at Newsweek and I'm pissed off big time.

I stand up for the news media all the time. I'm part of it, and people I know are part of it, and I know for a fact that the media as a whole aren't liberally biased and out to smear the Bush administration. I defend the media and try to explain what happens, and sometimes people understand, and usually they don't. When people ask what I do for a living, I introduce myself as an evil liberal journalist just so that I can get it in there before they do, and then sometimes they're more open to hearing what I have to say. But dammit to hell, Newsweek, you make it so damn hard.

Stop. Screwing. Up. I order you to stop screwing up. I thought you'd have learned your lesson after the whole CBS debacle; nothing like the Memogate scandal to take a good, solid swipe at whatever little credibility the Fourth Estate had left. Why was it such a big deal? Because CBS relied on one source, and it wasn't even one particularly credible source. They thought they had a story, and they ran it without checking the facts, because they wanted to be the first to get it out there. The first to break a big story? The first to smear the president? Dunno. Who cares? CBS's impatience screwed them over big, screwed Dan Rather over big, and screwed over the global news media as a whole by association.

But you just couldn't learn, could you, Newsweek? You ran a story based around the claims of a single, unnamed government official who, after the story ran, said, "Whoops! Maybe I'm not remembering clearly after all! Maybe what I said can be substantiated, and eh, maybe not." Dammit, Newsweek, dammit. What can you say to that? Tell me what I'm supposed to say. Tell me how I'm supposed to defend you now.

After this, it just doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that reports of the desecration of the Koran might be true - are probably true. It doesn't matter that your story might be completely on the level outside of that one nameless source's statement. None of it matters. This is beyond saving. In your apology - which, for the record, placated no one - you didn't retract the story, because there's every likelihood that everything else that it said is true. Well, Newsweek, it doesn't matter. That one minor mistake, that one weed in the flower garden, has lost you any tiny bit of credibility you had left. Your trustworthiness is somewhere on a level alongside Condoleezza Rice, and that is not a good place to be.

How many media outlets have to go down in flames before you learn to double and triple-check your sources? How many reporters have to eat their jobs with a knife and fork before you learn that an "anonymous government source" is going to turn on you like month-old milk? Honestly, how stupid can you get?

I can't defend you anymore. I can't defend you if you're going to continue to screw up like this. I can't put my own credibility on the line if you won't take tiny, simple steps to protect your own. I'm sorry, Newsweek. It's over.

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