Saturday, September 23, 2006

Zombie Journalism: Reuters Edition

John in DC at Americablog flags this misleading report by Reuters typist Joanne Morrison. Here is a copy of a letter I sent to the Reuters editors from the Contact a Reuters Editor link on their website.

I never used to do stuff like this -- send letters to the editor, call television stations to complain, etc. But for the past year or so I've been all over it. The Right has been incredibly successful at working the refs. We need to do it too. Over time and in sufficient numbers, it makes a diference.

To Whom It May Concern:

The September 22, 2006 Reuters story titled "Clinton faults Bush for inaction on bin Laden" by Joanne Morrison contains a highly misleading paragraph.

Ms. Morrison writes: "Earlier this month, Clinton dismissed as "indisputably wrong" a U.S. television show that suggested her was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal to confront the Islamic militant threat that culminated in the September 11 attacks." While the quotation may be accurate, Ms. Morrison's presentation of it is bound to mislead readers into believing that there is actually some controversy as to whether President Clinton was too distracted by the Lewinsky scandal to confront al Qaeda. In point of fact, there is no controversy whatsoever on this point.

As the Report of the 911 Commission makes crystal clear, this claim is completely contradicted by all the available evidence. As one hopes Reuters and Ms. Morrison are aware, numerous former Clinton Administration officials involved in the counter-terrorism effort have testified that this claim is completely false.

To the extent that it was appropriate to raise a discredited and demonstrably false allegation against President Clinton in this news report, the counterpoint to the allegation should not have been a denial of the spurious allegation by President Clinton, but the well-established and widely reported facts of the matter. The relevant facts are in the public record. One hopes that Reuters and Ms. Morrison are aware of them.

Do you think, on reflection, that a reader of Ms. Morrison's report who relied upon it without having independent knowledge of its subject matter, would tend to be mislead as to whether or not the allegation against President Clinton might be credible? I would suggest that the answer to that question is a clear, Yes.

In closing, let me say that the primary issue at hand is neither fairness to President Clinton nor "balance" in news reporting. Rather, the issue is fairness to your readers, who deserve not to be mislead as to truth or falsity of allegations that you choose to repeat in your news reports.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply.


Eric […]

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