The Times' influence demands that it be cautious, especially when deciding to publish what amounts to a government handout.
The thing about the news business is that what appears in the New York Times reappears lots of other places. The Times piece, "Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia," was posted on Sunday night (4/20/14) and appeared on the paper's front page the next day. So it was no surprise that it would wind up on one on the network newscasts. The NBC Nightly News, to be precise.
"There are new images just now released from Ukraine that are being called substantial photographic proof that Russian military forces have crossed over the border and are causing trouble," NBC anchor Brian Williams (4/21/14) told viewers.
Correspondent Andrea Mitchell cleared it up:
If they walk like Russian soldiers, dress like Russian soldiers, and even talk like Russian soldiers–most likely they are Russian soldiers…. Picture after picture given to European monitors and the US by the Kiev government showing that the well-trained uniformed but often masked men are, as suspected, Russian troops.
Mitchell all but declares that the photographs establish that the allegations are now facts: "Those armed men who've been now identified as Russian soldiers, they are still holding government buildings in cities across eastern Ukraine."
The Times decided to walk back its story once there was skepticism about the photos they had been supplied (FAIR Blog, 4/23/14). Will NBC do the same thing for its viewers?
NBC News' Twitter feed: @NBCNews