Aug
06
2010

NYT Passes Along Anonymous Denial of Civilian Deaths

We often heard during the WikiLeaks controversy that civilian deaths in Afghanistan are well-covered in the corporate media, so the revelations in the documents about such incidents were "old news." A report in today's Times from Rod Nordland ("Afghans Say NATO Strikes Killed Civilians," 8/6/10) teaches a useful lesson in how such reporting appears. There are actually two different attacks discussed in the piece, but the more revealing coverage concerns fallout from a July 26 attack. The Afghans say 52 civilians died. But the verdict from the U.S./NATO side is very different–and the Times delivers it via an anonymous source […]

Jan
04
2010

Afghan Civilians and the Value of Anonymity

A late December NATO attack in eastern Afghanistan reportedly killed nine people–or, according to NATO, nine militants. According to Afghans, nine young civilians. The first round of reporting showed that some outlets, as usual, were willing to take the U.S./NATO line at face value–so long as that line was delivered anonymously, as in the December 28 New York Times: A senior NATO official with knowledge of the operation said that the raid had been carried out by a joint Afghan-American force and that its target was a group of men who were known Taliban members and smugglers of homemade bombs, […]

Nov
03
2009

Drone Strikes Change Anonymous Washington Debate

The Los Angeles Times (11/2/09) gives readers a mostly upbeat account about the use of unmanned drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan– weapons that have killed hundreds in Pakistan in recent years. But Times reporter Julian Barnes tells us their popularity with U.S. military officials has "changed the nature of the current policy debate in Washington." The evidence: The technology allows us to project power without vulnerability," said a senior Defense official. "You don't have to deploy as many people. And in the modern age you want as little stuff forward as long as you can achieve the effects as if […]

Jul
17
2009

Carr on Finke Is Pot vs. Kettle

In his front-page profile of movie industry blogger Nikki Finke, New York Times media reporter David Carr (7/17/09) can't resist a self-congratulatory dig: "Her liabilities in the world of print–a penchant for innuendo and unnamed sources–became assets online." Those familiar with the print media world may recall that unnamed sources are not exactly unknown there. To find an example, I didn't have to go farther than the first half of Carr's own article, where he has a paragraph full of anonymous attacks on Finke: "I'd prefer not to ever deal with her," said a senior communications executive at a studio […]

Jun
15
2009

Battling 'Baseless, Worthless Grants of Anonymity'

Deeming "the battle against baseless, worthless grants of anonymity by journalists" to be "at this point, probably futile," Salon's Glenn Greenwald (6/15/09, ad-viewing required) is exasperated to see how "even many of the nation's best and most valuable reporters–such as the New Yorker's Jane Mayer–seem helplessly addicted to it." Greenwald points to "an otherwise solid and at times enlightening article on CIA Director Leon Panetta and his resistance to investigating past CIA abuses" in which Mayer includes this passage at the beginning of her article to explain how Panetta was chosen only after Obama's first choice, John Brennan, was rejected: […]