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January 18, 2005

ED CONE IS SPANKING THE NEW YORK TIMES -- and specifically reporter Sarah Boxer -- for dubious reporting in an article on Iraq the Model. Expect more of this kind of thing as the Iraqi elections approach.

I'll just note that the Times' standards for sourcing are, once again, shown to be much softer regarding stories that might hurt the war effort, or the Bush Administration, than they are when the story might hurt a Democratic candidate for President in a close election.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis:

Sarah Boxer's story on IraqTheModel in today's New York Times Arts section is irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate, incomplete, exploitive, biased, and -- worst of all -- dangerous, putting the lives of its subjects at risk. . . .

So here is a reporter from The New York Times -- let's repeat that, The New York Times -- speculating in print on whether an Iraqi citizen, whose only apparent weirdness and sin in her eyes is (a) publishing and (b) supporting America, is a CIA or Defense Department plant or an American.

Ms. Boxer, don't you think you could be putting the life of that person at risk with that kind of speculation? In your own story, you quote Ali -- one of the three blogging brothers who started IraqTheModel -- saying that "here some people would kill you for just writing to an American." And yet you go so much farther -- blithely, glibly speculating about this same man working for the CIA or the DoD -- to sex up your lead and get your story atop the front of the Arts section (I'm in the biz, Boxer, I know how the game is played).

How dare you? Have you no sense of responsibility? Have you no shame?

Not much. And they wonder why they've lost trust and respect.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at the blog of Spirit of America -- which, unlike Sarah Boxer, is engaged in day-to-day dealings with Iraqis in Iraq -- the article produces this reply from Jim Hake:

Here in the Southern California surfing community there is a tongue-in-cheek expression that applies to the article in question: "No brains, no headaches." Which, in this case, is the nicest way of saying we doubt that those behind the story will ever suffer any sort of discomfort. . . .

There are many, many Iraqis who are risking their lives working for freedom, democracy and peace in their country. They are struggling against the worst kind of enemy.

It's a shame that, in the case of the bloggers at Iraq the Model, the difficult work they are doing with Friends of Democracy gets no attention in the New York Times but quite a bit of ink is devoted to irresponsibly putting their lives at risk.

He's probably right that neither Ms. Boxer nor the New York Times will suffer so much as a pang of conscience over this affair. But I hope I'm wrong. Meanwhile, Tom Hazlewood emails: "Give the MSM credit for consistency in Iraq. When Saddam was in power, the MSM refused to tell us the truth about Iraq. Now that he's gone, they still refuse to tell the story of Iraq. That hasn't changed, at all." Faint praise. . . .