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Friday, March 03, 2006

In Over Their Heads

We've been having some vigorous discussion here -- and have been in correspondence with the ombudsmen of The Washington Post and New York Times -- about various ethical and journalism issues. We thought you'd be interested in these issues, and we'd appreciate your thoughts about them. We also think some of this should raise caution flags for your gatekeeping editors as they assess whether to use copy from competing national news organizations.

First, in this post-Jayson Blair era, we believe newspapers must be more transparent then ever about the sources of their stories. That includes acknowledging when others have beaten us to a big story. The Washington Post and New York Times each failed this standard in recent weeks.

On Feb. 7, Warren Strobel reported on a State Department reorganization that sidelined career arms control experts who don't share the Bush administration's mistrust of international arms negotiations and agreements. Exactly two weeks later, The Washington Post published a virtually identical story by Glenn Kessler. We say "virtually identical" only because the stories were written with different words. There was not a single fact in Kessler's story that was not in Strobel's, the product of weeks of careful enterprise reporting and interviews with 11 current and former government officials. We have asked, through the Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, who was once executive editor in St. Paul, for a published acknowledgement of the Knight Ridder story. To date, it hasn't happened. We understand that there has been vigorous opposition from the Post reporter, who has claimed, in essence, that the "trade press" had already widely reported the story, a contention that is in fact not correct. We're waiting to see what happens.
Lil' Debbie is on the case. When she's done covering the local pie eating contest and flogging Dana Milbank for his fashion gafs I'm sure she'll be all over this.

Meanwhile our Roots radio advisor Mike Stark had scored a direct hit on Bill O'Reilly with his team of radio callers. At the very mention of the word "Obermann" O'Reilly said Fox Security would personally order the police to deal with it. C&L says Keith will be covering it tonight on Countdown. More must-see TV.

Update: Howie Klein is over at Kos giving Lieberman a whipping. If you're a Kos member please go hit the "recommend" button.