A hidden truth

Posted: February 8, 2010 by datechguy in internet/free speech, war
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hidden within the Clark Hoyt’s NYT public editor piece on if there is a conflict of interest in the Time’s middle east reporting since Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief of The Times, has a son in the Israeli military:

I asked David K. Shipler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, what he would do. Shipler was The Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief a generation ago and its chief diplomatic correspondent until he left the paper in 1988. He said foreign correspondents operate in far more nuanced circumstances than readers may realize. They may rely on translators and stringers with political ties or biases that have to be accounted for. They develop their own relationships that enrich their reporting, just as Bronner’s son’s military service could open a conduit for information that other reporters might not have. emphasis mine.

This is something that the MSM has not emphasized in the past, but blogs on the Right have. In the words of Ralph Peters at the time:

The dangerous nature of journalism in Iraq has created a new phenomenon, the all-powerful local stringer. Unwilling to stray too far from secure facilities and their bodyguards, reporters rely heavily on Iraqi assistance in gathering news. And Iraqi stringers, some of whom have their own political agendas, long ago figured out that Americans prefer bad news to good news. The Iraqi leg-men earn blood money for unbalanced, often-hysterical claims, while the Journalism 101 rule of seeking confirmation from a second source has been discarded in the pathetic race for headlines.

To enhance their own indispensability, Iraqi stringers exaggerate the danger to Western journalists (which is real enough, but need not paralyze a determined reporter). Dependence on the unverified reports of local hires has become the dirty secret of semi-celebrity journalism in Iraq as Western journalists succumb to a version of Stockholm Syndrome in which they convince themselves that their Iraqi sources and stringers are exceptions to every failing and foible in the Middle East. The mindset resembles the old colonialist conviction that, while other “boys” might lie and steal, our house-boy’s a faithful servant.

The result is that we’re being told what Iraqi stringers know they can sell and what distant editors crave, not what’s actually happening.

To hear the NYT finally (albeit accidentally) admit that there are biases involved in stringers is long overdue.

Oh and BTW. It is a conflict, but as long as it is disclosed to the reader then I don’t have a huge problem with it. If the reader knows the source for a potential bias they can adjust judge a piece accordingly. NOT disclosing the conflict would be a dishonorable breech of journalistic ethics and we all know how important that is to the NYT. HA!

Before he became Mr. Hyde Charles Johnson used to touch on the use and the biases of these stringers.

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