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Monday, September 05, 2005

Extreme Gullible's Travails:
WaPo Must Identify The Liar

As has been well covered elsewhere (e.g., see this post at TPM), Sunday's WaPo ran a story reporting that
As of Saturday, [Louisana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux] Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.
This is a bald lie.

Here is the press release that Blanco's office issued on August 26, 2005 to announce the state of emergency (the text of the declaration is part of the release). By way of TPM, here is a link to the letter Blanco sent to President Bush on August 28th, 2005, requesting that the President declare an expedited major disaster (which I believe he did do) and explaining that she had declared a state of emergency.

(Note: TPM discusses Newsweek's apparent gullibility on the same points.)

To its very minor credit, the WaPo is running a correction at the top of the article in question. In very small print, this correction reads
A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.
How on Earth did the original lie make it into print unrebutted? Does the WaPo not have access to Google? Does it not make a practice of asking state officials for comment on a charge as incendiary as this?

I believe that the ability to promise sources anonymity is an essential part of journalists' jobs. But the promise is one side of an implicit, contingent contract: "you tell me something I want to know, and I will promise not to identify you as long as you are being truthful." This contract is violated by dishonesty, and no journalistic ethicist will or should have a problem with identifying a dishonest source.

Consider, for example, the apparently forged CBS documents concerning President Bush's TANG "service": CBS was right to identify its source once it was clear that he had misled reporters.

This administration has gotten away with anonymously lying through the media since day one (remember the supposed vandalism by departing members of the Clinton Administration? Those accusations were almost all lies -- and never mind the 2000 campaign).

It is utterly beyond me why the Post issues a correction but does not tell its readers the liar's identity.

Message to WaPo editors and writers: stop wondering why people are staying away from the MSM in droves.....You are giving them no reason to listen to you.

You can and must do better.


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