Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek's very bad awful day

As most of you have heard by now, Newsweek messed up. Big time. Here's their side of the story. Newsweek is my favorite magazine, so it hurts me to see them being taken to task, considering just how well they usually report and how they write in a way that's accessible and interesting. That being said, mistakes happen and sources can be wrong, and 9.9 times out of 10, no one dies. That being said, I don't think it's possible to hold Newsweek responsible for the deaths of 15 people. A friend pointed out perhaps Newsweek should have double double-checked the story, given the tensions in the Middle East. Possibly, probably. Here's the thing: once the information was out there, whether accurate or not, Newsweek could not know how it would be used.

To me, that's the crux of the matter. Anyone who says Newsweek is responsible for upping the ante on the anti-American sentiment is just deluding themselves. We pretty much put a nail in that coffin when we went in and took over a country. The insurgents in Iraq show us every day just how much they don't like us (or anyone who stands with us*). And then there's the human element -- someone used the story to incite a crowd to action. Newsweek wasn't there fanning the flames or encouraging people to riot; someone else twisted those words to suit their own purposes, and voila, 15 people are dead.

In a way, this is very similar to how President Bush twisted words and got people to support the war in Iraq by 'linking' Saddam to Al-Qaeda and 9/11 and made claims of WMDs -- all not true. Yet no one is blaming Bush or asking him to retract those 'stories' and thousands and thousands have died.

Sloppy journalism happens every day, because there's no such thing as a perfect human being. I bet there are people over at Newsweek who are going to be feeling sick to their stomachs for a really, really long time. The thing with journalism though, you go into every day, every deadline knowing there's a huge possibility you'll make a mistake, and that you'll have to retract what you've reported. That's the nature of the beast. So yes, what happened was horrible: Newsweek made a mistake that will tarnish its reputation for a very long time. But news articles don't kill people; people kill people.

* I use the term 'us' very loosely as I do not in any way support the war in Iraq; my support starts and ends with the US troops and my desire to bring them home as soon as possible.

No comments: