Reporter: 'Context' Trumps Truth

December 7th, 2006 1:17 PM
When the "six burning Sunnis" story hit the blogosphere, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal wrote that bloggers had "turned over a rock" at the Associated Press.

In his Best of the Web column today, Taranto turns over a rock himself and discovers a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News trying to scurry away from the light. Will Bunch is upset that conservative bloggers, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, and CENTCOM blew the whistle on the AP's story.

From Bunch's Daily News blog, "Attytood":

Now comes the flap over a mosque attack in Baghdad, and a dispute over the news account -- trumpted [sic] on this Daily News front page at top -- that six Sunni worshippers were burned alive. This Huffington Post post does a good job of breaking down the mixed signals on whether this event really happened as reported by the AP. It's clear to me that a) The AP based its article on information from a trusted and previously reliable source, which is no guarantee of avoiding an error but is also the proven and accepted way all over the world that journalists gather news and b) even if the report were wrong, and I'm not convinced that it is, it was in the context of horrific -- and demonstrably true -- escalating violence in Baghdad.

So, journalism is like horseshoes and hand grenades; close but dead wrong is fine as long as you follow "proven and accepted" techniques and meet your truthiness quota.

Bunch continues:

In fact, it's almost not worth swatting at these gnats from the 101st Fighting Keyboard Commandos. I'd rather just concede, and let them have as their main talking points on the Middle East: The fact that smoke was added to a picture of a real Israeli bombing of Lebanon, that the AP printed an incorrect story about one of the hundreds of deadly acts of sectarian violence in Iraq, and even the allegation -- totally unproven and not resulting in any actual charges -- that one Iraqi photographer who has worked with the AP has ties to the insurgents.

Fine. So far, bloggers have counted 61 stories quoting the mysterious "police captain Jamil Hussein," the source for the six burning Sunnis story, who is unknown to the Iraqi government and seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth. And Mr. Bunch, if the only problem with Adnan Hajj's photos was a little smoke added to one, why did Reuters pull all ten years of his work? And why did bloggers subsequently discover multiple examples of fake and staged photographs? The "one Iraqi photographer?" That would be Bilal Hussein, who was captured in an al Qaeda bombmaking factory with an al Qaeda leader (a terrorist, not an "insurgent"), and tested positive for explosives.