Let's try for accuracy next time

One of my major gripes with the mainstream media is that they're very quick to jump on anything that might sell papers, or increase viewers, regardless of its factual accuracy. The latest example of this is quite sickening. You'll have no doubt read about the story regarding the supposed desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, which many newspapers were quick to jump on. The World Socialist Web Site has this pretty accurate summary of the news reports regarding what happened at Guantanamo and shortly afterwards around the globe:
Anti-American protests over reports of US interrogators tormenting prisoners by desecrating the Koran spread throughout the Muslim world Friday. Angry demonstrations broke out from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to Indonesia following four days of violent clashes in Afghanistan that have left over 16 people dead and scores wounded.

Protests were also reported in Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim countries filed formal protests with Washington.

The immediate spark for the protests was a brief report in the May 9 issue of Newsweek magazine citing internal FBI memos from the US detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba reporting that “interrogators, attempting to rattle suspects ... had placed Korans on toilets and, in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet.”
However, there's one serious problem: The supposed desecration of the Koran never actually happened. Newsweek were quick to jump on a report from a single anonymous source, without checking it with anyone else, and as a direct result, have paid the price.
Newsweek magazine has apologised for errors in a story alleging that interrogators at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran, saying it would re-examine the accusations, which sparked outrage and deadly protests in Afghanistan.
He said the magazine's original source later said he could not be sure he read about the alleged Koran incident in the report they cited, and that it might have been in another document.
Seriously. If you've only got one source, who can't be named, don't run the story in future until you've got confirmation. Just because you got to break the story first hasn't given you any benefits long term, other than a sharp increase in hits as a bunch of people decide to laugh at your apology. However one thing we won't be laughing at is this:
A group of Afghan Muslim clerics threatened on Sunday to call for a holy war against the United States in three days unless it hands over military interrogators reported to have desecrated the Koran.
The clerics in the northeastern province of Badakhshan said they wanted President Bush to handle the matter honestly “and hand the culprits over to an Islamic country for punishment.”
Newsweek knew full well comments like this would spark huge tensions against the United States. With that in mind, wouldn't you check the story out with multiple sources before risking lots of lives? Obviously not. Michelle Malkin sums it up as "Newsweek lied, people died", and Powerline have a good summary of Newsweek's journalistic failure:
So Isikoff relied on a telephone call with an anonymous government official paraphrasing a forthcoming report, confirmed by placing a draft of the Periscope item before another anonymous government official. Isikoff never saw the underlying report or even had it read to him.
That's not the way a respectable news organisation handles business. Dan Rather and his crew of easily duped anti-Bush partisans would've run a story like this. Look at where that got them. Eason Jordan would've repeated these accusations. Look at where that got him. It's time to reveal the anonymous source, and his head, in addition to the two reporters responsible for the story, should roll all the way out of the media. But note that these so-called journalists who deliberately show disdain for fact checking almost always are caught up in smears against America, Republicans or conservatives. Maybe that's because there are so few conservatives in the media that they just don't have the numbers to make an effective media smear campaign based on lies.

Or maybe it's because the liberal media will sink to any depths in order to bring down what they don't like - and in this case, it's America. That's irresponsible journalism, but sadly we've come to expect that from the media.

(Cross-posted to The House Of Wheels.)

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