How The Media Corrects Itself

Usually buried deep within its pages, or behind closed doors in meetings with staff.

Corrections are supposed to occupy the same space as the mistakes. In other words, misreporting on A1 needs to come clean on A1. Retractions on broadcast tv need to happen on the same show as the mistake.

But that never happens. The New York Times dedicated a story to an NBC botch on the “Today” show. The producer was fired; meetings were held; but no public correction was made on the air. The NYT, in its pages, goes on and on in this story about how that’s unethical.

Now, I hate it when the NYT gets self-righteous, so, lest we forget, here’s how they blundered and lied a country into war:

The fake WMD’s of Ahmed Chalabi, and the reporter (Judith Miller), who relayed his message as if it was gospel. Miller’s improperly vetted “secret source” thought he was promised the Iraqi Presidency by the Americans. He reliably told the reporter what she wanted to hear, and the NYT put it on the front page over and over again.

To be fair, the NYT wasn’t the only “news source” banging the drums of war with no justifiable proof. According to Bill Moyers, and the PBS feature he produced, in the year before the invasion William Safire (a NYT commentator who predicted a “quick war” with Iraqis cheering their liberators) wrote “a total of 27 opinion pieces fanning the sparks of war.” The Washington Post carried at least 140 front-page stories in that same period making the administration’s case for attack. In the six months leading to the invasion the Post would “editorialize in favor of the war at least 27 times.” Of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news in the six months before the war, almost all could be traced back to sources solely in the White House, Pentagon or State Dept.

So, how do you correct yourself for hundreds of stories leading to 11 years of war and millions dead?

If you’re the NYT, you print one small mea culpa, buried on page A8, with hardly a headline, and move on.

If criticism persists, you say no one could have done better; improvement was impossible. Then, you print a ridiculous story about the lying reporter, saying her awesomeness got in the way of the truth. Yes, in their own words of apology, Judith Miller was “a star.”

Feel like barfing yet?

Let’s continue down memory lane.

The initial stories passing along the military’s fake reasons for Pat Tillman’s death, and the fake rescue of Jessica Lynch were on page one. When the real stories came out, they were not on the front page. Or on the second page. Or on the third…

Wonder what they’re all lying about today?

Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Read all about it.


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