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December 5, 2006
Right and WongBy Greyhawk
In a meeting with us this afternoon, the A.P.’s executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, said again, passionately, “We have done everything we know how to do” to respond to the questions.Insisting that their witness exists by "vigorously re-reporting" the same thing is apparently the limit - proving his existence is out of the question.
The executive editor of The Associated Press, Kathleen Carroll, in a meeting in her office Friday afternoon, explained that the agency had already done all it could to respond to the uncertainties by vigorously re-reporting the article, and suggested that to engage these questions — to continue to write about them — merely fueled a mad blog rabble that would never be satisfied.Until offered actual proof, that is. But it is interesting to see that the NY Times is asking questions.
They also checked with their own reporter, Ed Wong, who replied as follows.
Hi Tom,Now, if I read that correctly he's saying "It seemed very likely to be a bogus story, so we only mentioned it in passing." Remember that rule from the style book the next time you see something mentioned "in passing" in the New York Times.
To his credit, he did include a cautionary disclaimer for careful readers in his original story:
Fanned by fear, rumors spread quickly throughout the day. In the evening, a resident named Imad al-Hashemi said in a telephone interview on Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, that gunmen had doused some people with gasoline and set them on fire. Other residents contacted by telephone denied this.But why worry about 6 people burned alive, when he'd already claimed this a few paragraphs prior:
From morning until afternoon, at least four mosques were attacked in Hurriya, a mixed neighborhood in the capital. Two were destroyed, and at least 5 Sunnis were killed and 10 wounded, an Interior Ministry official said. A hard-line Sunni Arab group, the Muslim Scholars Association, said 18 people had been killed when one of the mosques burned down.Apparently a separate incident from the "6 Sunnis burned alive" claim - and one with no quotes from neighbors to support or dispute it, something admittedly within Ed's ability to deliver. As I've noted before, 18 is more than 6, and a "burned down" mosque is relatively easy enough to verify. Given Ed's passion for balanced reporting, it's unfortunate he failed to at least note the well known connection between the Association of Muslim Scholars and al Qaeda - opting instead for the ambiguous "hard line" descriptor. And yes, this is the same group that claimed 184 Sunni mosques had been attacked within hours of the Shrine bombing (and that now appears to be rupturing after their leader fled Iraq). Ed Wong reported their claims as fact back then, too - and declared that plans for the formation of Iraq's government were "in ruins". Small wonder if he harbors grudges against that government now.
Meanwhile, Tom Zeller, who wrote the Time blog items quoted above, notes in a longer article on the topic
It is important to find out if this really happened in order to separate the hyperbole from the merely horrible in Iraq, so that the horrible will still have meaning. Otherwise it will all become din.And that is indeed the substance of the problem. In fact, it's likely that Americans, if confronted with an endless series of unsubstantiated horror stories from Iraq reported as fact - on top of the real death and destruction accompanying war - might even sooner give up altogether, start saying things like "we'll never be able to stop those people from killing each other" and insisting the troops come home now. (Note to NY Times readers: I'm using sarcasm in the previous line.)
But if the NY Times is serious about accurate reporting from Iraq, they might want to start examining the work of their own man on the scene, who's never met an unsubstantiated rumor of atrocity he found unfit to print.
Posted by Greyhawk / December 5, 2006 12:36 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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