December 18, 2007

Journalism is Hard

Babak Dehghanpisheh has an article posted in Newsweek today that once again shows just how careless the media is in its Iraq reporting in an article called, "The "Body Contractors.'"

The article itself is interesting, in that it notes that both violence is down and that those killing Iraqis are taking greater care to hide the bodies of those they kill. As a result of the recent trend of hiding bodies, mutahid al juthath—body contractors—charges clients between $300-$500 to hunt down missing relatives whether they are alive, or as the title of the article implies, dead.

The problem with Dehghanpisheh's reporting, however, is that he cites as examples of on-going massacres at least one event that simply never took place.

He writes:

In the past two months, more than half a dozen mass graves have been found in Iraq, at least half of them in Baghdad. At one site discovered in late November, in a yard in Baghdad's Saydiya neighborhood, bodies and their severed heads were buried in two separate holes, according to a source at the Ministry of Interior who isn't authorized to speak on the record. An additional 16 bodies were found buried in a ditch north of Baghdad last Thursday.

The 16 bodies "found buried in a ditch north of Baghdad last Thursday" never existed, according to American forces in the area that state:

This appears to false reporting. We currently have no information to confirm this. Neither the Brigade on the ground, or out teams that work with the IA or IPs can confirm this.

It is too much to ask reporters to ask anonymous sources for proof of their claims?

When it comes to reporting the dead in Iraq, apparently so.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 18, 2007 10:30 AM

Even if a grave were found it is not an immediate need story to put onto the presses. If they took even a couple of days to have a PAO double check and then release the story then fine.

It is really not a time sensitive story that would justify such a rush to print.

Also it would give the opportunity to either add credibility to their stringer/sources or lower them as the case warrants.

At least the false lead stories would be minimized and their credibility would not be taking the hits simply due to rushing a story that is truly not a time sensitive breaking one.

Posted by: Observer at December 19, 2007 12:14 AM

Also it would be hard to consider that even a stringer or even a tipster doesn't have a photo capable cellphone and possibly mail in or bring in some solid proof.

Posted by: Observer at December 19, 2007 12:17 AM

It's become far too common for an "anonymous source" to be used to print fabrications where there really is no valid source. By making the source anonymous, the source's lack of validity is hidden quite effectively.

In fact, it is quite possible for a reporter to be his/her own "anonymous source," which raises all sorts of questions.

I do not question that occasionally it is necessary to grant a truly valid source anonymity, but the privilege has been abused and needs to be reined in.

Posted by: C-C-G at December 19, 2007 12:42 AM

Nah, journalism is easy. You just sit around in a bar and make up crap.

Posted by: David at December 19, 2007 10:47 AM

It's only easy to sit around at the bar making up crap when there's a Narrative to follow, otherwise the drinks get in the way and you wind up at the National Enquirer desk.

Posted by: DirtCrashr at December 19, 2007 01:49 PM

Yes, The Narrative is everything. The Narrative says that there must be mass graves and shooting in Iraq, therefore that is what gets printed. They use an "anonymous source" because they can't find any real sources to corroborate their story, and that's because--guess what!--their story is WRONG!

Posted by: C-C-G at December 19, 2007 08:34 PM