NEWSWEEK AT MID-PLUNGE. Remember the old joke about the guy who jumps off the Empire State Building? Halfway down, he's asked how he's doing. "So far, so good," he replies.
That's where Newsweek is this morning. Although editor Mark Whitaker has apologized for sourcing problems in the magazine's item of May 9 alleging that American guards flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet at Guantánamo Bay, he has neither retracted the item nor said that it is false. Whitaker and the reporters who produced the item, Michael Isikoff and John Barry, are hoping for a miracle. But the sidewalk is getting closer every nanosecond.
Here is Howard Kurtz on this fiasco. The New York Times' Katharine Seelye reports on the story as well. White House press secretary Scott McClellan, naturally, is claiming vindication for the Bush administration.
Is it possible to offer a bit of context on the fly? We don't know how this is going to turn out yet, although I suspect we're going to know a lot more by the end of the day. There is obviously no excuse for whatever sloppy reporting Newsweek may have committed, and the fact that 16 people have died in rioting because of the story obviously looms large.
Furthermore, if we ever had any doubts that the press is not on our side in the war, that it is anxious to publish stories of failure and doom and rarely cares to look at our successes (many of them utterly historic), well, Michael Isikoff John Barry and the Newsweek editorial team have finally laid them to rest. You guys are enemy propagandists. It's just who you are. It's nice that you've at least stopped pretending.
This is also still further proof that the notion that "professional" journalists have greater fact-checking or "checks and balances" than responsible bloggers is nonsense.
Screw you, Newsweek. Screw you.
Given how little we actually know at this point, that's quite a leap.
Moreover, given the level of abuse that has been credibly reported at Guantánamo - including that witnessed by government and military officials themselves, as revealed in documents obtained by the ACLU - the notion that the Koran was being desecrated wasn't exactly startling. Indeed, it seems at least plausible that Newsweek will be vindicated somehow - or that the Bush administration is taking advantage of slipshod journalism in order to discredit a story that may very well be true.
I'm not trying to make any excuses for anyone. I'm simply pointing out that we still don't know much.
But the sidewalk looms.
PUBLIC RADIO, TOO. Stephen Labaton has a disturbing story in today's New York Times on efforts by Kenneth Tomlinson, head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to go after National Public Radio.
As Labaton points out, NPR could easily survive without government money - but its member stations are dependent on taxpayer largesse, some more than others.