Mark Eichenlaub has an outstanding overview of the recent Old Media reporting on the latest investigation into the depth of ties between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Al Queda network of terrorist groups. His article highlights in perfectly plain sight just how a single, biased writer will bite on a rumor from a single anonymous source about a report that hadn’t even been revealed, and then a total falsehood becomes propagated by the Old Media. When the actual report came out, anyone and everyone reading it could see that it listed innumerable documented and confirmed connections between Saddam’s regime and the network of terror groups called, Al Queda.
The storm began (as noted in Stephen Hayes must read piece) with a McClatchy news piece titled “Exhaustive review finds no link between Saddam, al Qaida.” The leak-based story essentially summarizes a 94 page report down to a single, unrepresentative phrase. For the record it should be noted that once the report was made available to the public it was revealed that its author’s actually say on page ES-3 that their report is not exhaustive (contrary to the early news report) stating that the list of Hussein era documents are “not an exhaustive list” beause some were in the possession of other U.S. government agencies.
This story was followed by headlines of a similar bent. Steve Schippert’s sample of some of the more prominent headlines provides readers with what the story’s narrative looked like a few days ago:
ABC: Report Shows No Link Between Saddam and al Qaeda
New York Times: Study Finds No Qaeda-Hussein Tie
CNN: Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda not linked, Pentagon says
Washington Post: Study Discounts Hussein, Al-Qaeda Link
AFP: No link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda: Pentagon study
And within hours the (mainstream media) die had been cast. Saddam was not linked to al Qaeda went the theme.
This one is definitely worth the read. Think about what it shows: NO ONE in the McLatchy Newspaper chain of editors, no one at ABC, no one at the New York Times, no one at CNN, no one at the Washington Post, no one at AFP, and no one at any of the blogosphere sites that posted the original article actually read the report. NONE. Old Media/traditional media outlets are supposed to be special because they have armies of fact checkers yet no one in any of these armies ever saw the actual report. The actual report contradicts the original article at almost every turn.
Is there a fact checker anywhere, or have these outlets collapsed into rumor parrots? Were it not for spellcheck, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a spelling error from the original made it to all the outlets. Would yuo?