Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek – “Oops”

From the New York Times:

Newsweek apologized yesterday for printing a small item on May 9 about reported desecration of the Koran by American guards at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an item linked to riots in Pakistan and Afghanistan that led to the deaths of at least 17 people. But the magazine, while acknowledging possible errors in the article, stopped short of retracting it.

The report that a Koran had been flushed down a toilet set off the most virulent, widespread anti-American protests in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban government more than three years ago.

“We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst,” Mark Whitaker, Newsweek’s editor, wrote in the issue of the magazine that goes on sale at newsstands today. In an accompanying article, the magazine wrote that its reporters had relied on an American government official, whom it has not identified, who had incomplete knowledge of the situation.

But Mr. Whitaker said in an interview later: “We’re not retracting anything. We don’t know what the ultimate facts are.”

Okay, it’s been a while since I was a professional journalist, but I do remember that Rule #1 is that you don’t go to press with a fact unless you are absolutely sure you’ve got it right and from more than just one source.