Sunday, November 06, 2005

A failure of journalism 
Thanks to some terrific reporting from the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Ron Harris, we now see that former Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, author of "Kill Kill Kill," is a lying scumweasel who is now making money off of slandering the real warriors with whom he served.

Once again, it takes a hometown, heartland newspaper to shame the reporting of the coastal biggies, who ran with his outlandish accusations of graphic murder and the slaughtering of children, time after time after time, without bothering to seek verification of any kind.

Most alarming, though, is the indespensible sidebar that Ron Harris wrote, "Why did the press swallow Massey's stories?"

Media outlets throughout the world have reported Jimmy Massey's claims of war crimes, frequently without ever seeking to verify them.

For instance, no one ever called any of the five journalists who were embedded with Massey's battalion to ask him or her about his claims.

none of the AP reporters ever called Ravi Nessman, an Associated Press reporter who was embedded with Massey's unit. Nessman wrote more than 30 stories about the unit from the beginning of the war until April 15, after Baghdad had fallen.

Jack Stokes, a spokesman for the AP, said he didn't know why the reporters didn't talk to Nessman, nor could he explain why the AP ran stories without seeking a response from the Marine Corps. The organization also refused to allow Nessman to be interviewed for this story.

Why not? Maybe Nessman can help restore the name of the AP. Maybe Nessman can set a few things straight. And if the AP were committed to the truth - the prime directive of all journalism - they'd make Nessman available.

But that, unfortunately, is a big "if" in today's media climate.

Some media did seek out comment from the Marine Corps and were told that an investigation of Massey's accusations had found them baseless. Still, those news outlets printed Massey's claims without any evidence other than the word of Massey, who had been released from service because of depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

Because it fit your template, didn't it, you inept members of the media typist pool?

Editors at some papers look back at the Massey articles and are surprised that they ran them without examining whether the claims were true or without ever asking the Marine Corps about them.

"I'm looking at the story and going, 'Why, why would we have run this without getting another side of the story?'" said Lois Wilson, managing editor of the Star Gazette in Elmira, N.Y.

Oh, wait...I might have an idea. Because you weren't doing your job, Lois!

But it's Albany's Rex Smith who's cavalier attitude is most infuriating.

Rex Smith, editor of the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, said he thought the newspaper's story about Massey could have "benefited from some additional reporting." But he didn't necessarily see anything particularly at odds with standard journalism practices.

The paper printed a story in which Massey reportedly told an audience how he and other Marines killed peaceful demonstrators. There was no response from the Marine Corps or any other evidence to back Massey's claims.

Smith said that, unfortunately, that is the nature of the newspaper business.

"You could take any day's newspaper and probably pick out a half dozen or more stories that ought to be subjected to a more rigorous truth test," he said.

"Yes, it would have been much better if we had the other side. But all I'm saying is that this is unfortunately something that happens every day in our newspapers and with practically every story on television."

Hey, Rex, you embarrassment to the profession...you forgot to throw your hands into the air and say "Insh'Allah!"

Rex Smith should be summarily dismissed, and replaced with a warm body.

Michael Parks sees it differently. He is the director of the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism and formerly the editor of the Los Angeles Times. Parks also reviewed stories written about Massey.

"A reporter's obligation is to check the allegation, to seek comment from the organization that's accused," said Parks, a Pulitzer Prize winner who covered the Vietnam War as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. "They can't let allegations lie on the table, unchecked or unchallenged. When they don't do that, it's a clear disservice to the reader."

Good old SC! My alma mater. It's not that hard to grasp. If Rex Smith didn't learn that much going through J-school or coming up through the ranks of his newsroom, then what on Earth DID he bother to learn?

In many cases, journalists covered Massey as he was speaking at public gatherings. Some reporters said that because he was making public statements, they didn't feel an obligation to check his claims. Some editors worried they could be accused of covering up his claims if they didn't report on his speech.

Some editors are spineless milquetoasts. It's too bad that Harris doesn't name names, here, though I'm sure a lot of the people who spoke to him talked on background.

The fact that Rex Smith didn't proves he's as stupid as he is weak.

Rex Smith should go.

Write the paper here.

Splash, out


Hat tip to the inexhaustible Michelle Malkin

UPDATE: Massey has apparently perjured himself under oath here.

Some one clue me in. This...person...has voluntarily admitted to partaking in acts counter to the Geneva Convention (and I'm reasonably certain, the UCMJ), and he still walks about as a free man and hasn't been arrested for his crimes?

I guess he should be glad that the Marines didn't find his allegations credible...
I'm rarely proud of the Post Dispatch (my hometown newspaper) but this makes me feel a little hope for the future.

Furthermore, were it not for embeds, Massey might successfully run for Senate in a few years.

Tim McNabb
Yet another reason I would love to be an embed.
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