Fascinating. The Times spends the first two paragraphs stating twice that Hussein has been held “without charges” or “without being charged.” Paragraph three details the Associated Press’ defense of Hussein, and points up other cases of Iraqi journalists being arrested for suspected insurgent activity, only to be released later on. Paragraph four continues with the defense, from Hussein’s lawyers’ point of view. Finally, five paragraphs in, we hear from the US military only in the sixth paragraph do we hear about the charges.
In a lengthy e-mail message, the spokesman said that Mr. Hussein had been named by “sources” as having “possessed foreknowledge of an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) attack” on American and Iraqi forces, “that he was standing next to the I.E.D. triggerman at the time of the attempted attack, and that he conspired with the I.E.D. triggerman to synchronize his photograph with the explosion.”
Several editors and reporters overseeing Iraqi coverage for Western news organizations said they worked hard to vet their local hires for sectarian and political ties that could slant their coverage, and offered extensive training in the rules of Western journalism. But there are no official background checks that can be conducted, as American and European companies routinely do when making domestic hires. Rather, news organizations try to get to know their prospective Iraqi hires in person and then judge them by the work they produce.
“A person is usually recommended by another journalist and brought in for an interview, and you sit down and have a long discussion with that person,” said John Daniszewski, The Associated Press’s international editor. “Like any job applicant in the states, people go through a probationary period. They are given lessons, it’s like an apprenticeship relationship.”
Mr. Daniszewski added, “When you are working side by side, you get to know the person, and if the person seems unreliable, or if you ever see someone not completely honest with you, he is out the door.”
They’re making it too easy. If the local hire can pull off an act of affability and keep the “Death to America” stuff to a minimum, the effect of this no-vetting, let’s-work-together policy is that the MSM editors will become friends with the people they hire. Pretty soon they’ll take on that camaraderie that’s common in dangerous situations, and soon after that they won’t even be able entertain the possibility that the photographer or stringer they’ve been working with for a year or two without incident is in fact a public affairs officer for the local insurgent group.
Here’s one more telling paragraph:
The reporters and editors said that they often had to filter out obvious sectarian biases from news copy, and, as a matter of policy, would not run statistics like death counts from the field without official confirmation from the military. But, these journalists emphasized, there is a big difference between bias seeping into news copy and insurgents infiltrating news organizations.
Actually, there isn’t a huge difference between sectarian bias seeping in and insurgents infiltrating news organizations. To take but one example, a year ago this time Michelle and I were getting ready to go to Iraq to investigate an AP story about an alleged Shiite attack in Hurriya against Sunnis there. The core of the story was that Shiites had attacked and killed Sunnis while Shiite Iraqi Army troops looked on. The story turned out to be wrong, but more than that, it turned out to be a smear of the Iraqi Army unit that responded to the incident. They didn’t look on as the original story indicated; according to the military’s after-action reports that unit and its officers did what they were supposed to do. Whether it was intended to or not, that AP story worked in favor of Sunni insurgent propaganda by busting trust in the Iraqi Army as being capable of setting aside sectarian differences and doing their jobs fairly. The AP hasn’t corrected the underlying problems that led to such a story hitting the wires, and its attitude in the face of the Bilal Hussein case indicates that the AP and the rest of the MSM still aren’t even interested in examining the flaws in their war reporting methods.
One more telling paragraph:
In any foreign outpost, Western news organizations rely on locals to get the job done, often as drivers or translators. “The reliance on local staff is nothing new, whether it be in the West Bank, or Gaza or other places,” said Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “News organizations know how to vet and scrutinize information.”
Then why don’t they do it before bloggers have to bust them for what amounts to fraud?