Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Newsweek Koran Story and the Question of Bias

I'm getting in as much New York Times column-reading as I can before the eminences there impose their punditry-for-a-price policy. Today, David Brooks writes a "plague on both your houses" piece directed at those with facile, ideologically-driven takes on the Newsweek Koran-desecration story.

Writes Brooks about his fellow conservatives who believe the whole story was the result of philosophical bias:
Many of my friends on the right have decided that the Newsweek episode exposes the rotten core of the liberal media...

...but this is craziness. I used to write for Newsweek. I know Mike Isikoff and the editors. And I know about liberals in the media. The people who run Newsweek are not a bunch of Noam Chomskys with laptops. Not even close. Whatever might have been the cause of their mistakes, liberalism had nothing to do with it.
Of liberals apparently disappointed that the story isn't true, Brooks says:
...the left side of the blogosphere has erupted with fury over the possibility that American interrogators might not have flushed a Koran down the toilet. The Nation and leftish Web sites are in a frenzy to prove that the story is probably true even if Newsweek is retracting it. This, too, is unhinged. Would it be illegal for more people on the left to actually be happy that a story slurring Americans may turn out to be unproven?
I've written on this site about what I think lay behind the colossal lapse of judgment at Newsweek that led them to run a poorly-sourced story with such grim implications. I don't think it reflected a liberal bent, but a post-Vietnam-Watergate bent toward believing the worst of the US government, whether its caretakers are Democrats or Republicans; a bunker-mentality created by the interaction of mainstream media hubris and the sniping of bloggers; and the constant pressure to get the big stories out first.

Hopefully, the events surrounding Newsweek's story will cause the media to be more careful about checking their facts in the future. In a shrinking world of instant communication, the stakes are too high for news providers to be careless.

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