The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a story detailing a PEW research center survey about how Americans view the media. The story begins with a local angle, St. Louisans working out in a local fitness center and arguing among themselves about which news channel should be on the room's television. Some want FOX, others want CNN or horrifyingly, CBS. "Polls show perceived bias is just one of the stated reasons the public holds journalists in low esteem. Add to that journalistic screw-ups and shrinking news coverage.
And the story went on to belabor how badly journalist feel these days, how they are so worried about offending or being perceived as biased that "that we won't write anything worth a hoot."
Too bad Newsweek didn't have a touch of that hesitancy last week as their story about U.S. military personnel overseeing prisoners at Guantanamo supposedly flushing copies of the Koran down toilets has, as Lucienne so starkly put it: "More people were tortured and killed in
the Newsweek riots than at Gitmo."
Two points: (1) If they had wrongly reported the race of a criminal and produced a lynching, they'd feel much worse -- which is why they generally don't report such things, a degree of sensitivity they don't extend to reporting on, you know, minor topics like wars; and (2) If a blogger had made a similar mistake, with similar consequences, we'd be hearing about Big Media's superior fact-checking and layers of editors.
People died, and U.S. military and diplomatic efforts were damaged, because -- let's be clear here -- Newsweek was too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush Administration and the military look bad.
If it is possible to be made physically ill by a news story, this is it. Now, Newsweek, in the upcoming week's issue is apologizing, saying: "Newsweek magazine on Sunday said it may have erred in a May 9 report that said U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to victims of deadly violence sparked by the article." Sorry, Newsweek, the country of Afganistan is in flames, burning American flags, calling for a holy war against Americans. As is Pakistan, Iraq and probably every other country in the Middle East. I may have erred in ever subscribing to Newsweek, but it does not take away the sickness I feel over what they have done, for whatever reason they did it. As for the all the reporters crying to the PEW research center surveys over how they are not respected anymore. Look no further than your local newstand and you will understand why.