AP and Bloggers Face Off on Flaming Sunnis
Tom Zeller has a detailed look at a recent flap between bloggers and the mainstream press over an AP story about six Sunni worshipers who were allegedly “doused in kerosene and burned alive by Shiite attackers.” Curt at Flopping Aces, cited by Zeller as blogger engaged in the controversy, has a lengthy reply. Patrick “Patterico” Frey and Newsbuster Al Brown weigh in as well.
While the blogosphere catapulted to national attention with its ability to “fact check their ass,” getting major scalps on its wall along the way, doing so is very difficult indeed in international reporting, especially that which takes place in a war zone. When a “venerable, trusted news agency” reports on an incident amidst that allegedly takes place in an environment of chaos and vicious reprisals, the mere fact that they are not naming names or that some actors assert that the reports are bogus is not necessarily dispositive.
Still, there is one central issue in dispute here: The reliability of the single, named source upon which AP built its initial story, an Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein. The Iraqi authorities have asserted that no such person exists and AP has provided no rebuttal on that score. It may be that “Jamil Hussein” is a fake name assumed by a real live policeman to protect his family’s safety. Then again, it may be that AP correspondent Qais al-Bashir simply invents stories out of whole cloth, as SeeDubya and others have documented.
Given that AP has had numerous problems with international stringers in recent months, one would think they would turn over ever stone to answer these questions. Plenty of once-venerable, once-trusted institutions have lost their credibility with repeated violations of their trust.