Opinion

Jack Shafer

Shameless paper in mindless fog

By Jack Shafer
April 18, 2013

If our culture allowed diseased newspapers to be quarantined, I’d have the New York Post kenneled right now.

I express that sentiment after reading the Post‘s Boston Marathon bombing coverage, in which it erroneously reported that 12 were dead, mistakenly stated that a Saudi national was “a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing” and, this morning identified two Boston Marathon bystanders in a Page One photo as “Bag Men.”

Of course, every news outlet botches a breaking news story from time to time, and many have erred in their Boston reporting, as BuzzFeedChart GirlPoynterSalon and others have tabulated. But what distinguishes the New York Post from other stumbling outlets is the cavalier manner about its errors. When other outlets make monumental mistakes, they may take their time printing corrections. They may avoid acknowledging their errors if they can get away with it. Or if they acknowledge their errors promptly — as CNN’s John King did this week — they may blame “confusion” or “misinformation” rather than accept the blame directly. But by and large, the press takes its lumps.

The Post, in contrast, appears not to care whether it gets a memorable story right or wrong. It only hopes to produce a memorable story, damn the truth value.

This afternoon, Col Allan, Post editor-in-chief, demonstrated his paper’s approach to news with a statement to Salon about the controversial “Bag Men” cover story. Putting the “m” in mendacious, Allan said:

We stand by our story. The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.

On one superficial level, Allan is absolutely correct: The Post didn’t call the backpacked and duffel-carrying young fellows on its cover page “suspects.” It did something more incendiary. It called them bag men, which is slang for criminals who perform deliveries and run errands for other criminals. In other words, the Post transferred the two young men from the category of innocent-until-proven-guilty “suspects” to criminal carriers, presumably of bombs.

Having no access to hidden surveillance cameras inside the Post newsroom, I can only guess how the Post coverage has come together. I’m fairly certain that no editor or reporter proposed that the paper exaggerate the body count or cast suspicions on innocent people. But I have no trouble believing that the editors were happy to inflate the photograph of the backpack-and-duffel duo into something sensational with a zippy headline.

Headline writing, especially headline writing at tabloids, is an art. Some of the best headlines to emerge from headline-writing sessions — the ones that pun, make a sly allusion or resonate on a couple of levels — are rejected because they’re too crude, too arcane or just inaccurate. Few publications write more entertaining headlines than the New York Post, as this 2008 compilation of them attests. Calling bag-carrying bystanders “Bag Men” lives in that tradition. You could regard that headline as inspired if you don’t give a fig about accuracy or about libeling individuals. Evidence that the Post was up to mischief with its headline was detected by Gawker’s Tom Scocca, who noted the tiny, caption-size type on the page that qualified the accusatory headline. It reads, “There is no direct evidence linking them to the crime, but authorities want to identify them.” The Post essentially libels the two guys with big type and takes it back with the small.

The Post‘s recklessness ‑ its urge to entertain and excite no matter what the validity of a headline or a story might be ‑ places it outside the modern American newspaper tradition and firmly in the British tradition. England is where the Post‘s CEO, Rupert Murdoch, helped establish that tradition with his London tabloids The Sun and News of the World, the latter of which he folded in the summer of 2011 after its phone-hacking transgressions were revealed.

The Murdochian tabloid, to give it a more descriptive name, doesn’t care if its readers don’t believe what it publishes. In England, the Murdochian tabloids stir so much BS into print that the Tabloid Watch blog offers almost daily assessments of their fabrications, contradictions and lies. All the tabloid press expects from its readers is their continued patronage, so it doesn’t matter if the readers discount what they read as half true or trumped up. And readers do discount what they read: In New York, Murdoch’s Post has such a low reputation for accuracy that it scored the lowest credibility rating for newspapers in a 2004 Pace University poll (pdf).

Although Murdoch ran Murdochian tabloids in Chicago, San Antonio and Boston in addition to New York, his fun-over-facts formula has never really taken root in America, causing his U.S. tabloid portfolio to wither to just the Post long ago. And it’s not like the Post has taken root in New York. It has survived for decades on Murdoch subsidies, which the New York Times recently put at an estimated $110 million a year.

Curiously, the Post’s extreme, almost defiant inaccuracy has united America’s armchair media critics like little else. It can hardly be denied that the racy Post has pointed the way for decades toward an info-entertainment hybrid that many have followed. This week, at least, in its stunning contempt for fact, it has defined the basement into which no media outlet that wants respect wishes to descend.

******

Send scuzzy New York Post stories to Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com for my entertainment. My Twitter feed is libel-free. Sign up for email notifications of new Shafer columns (and other occasional announcements). Subscribe to this RSS feed for new Shafer columns.

PHOTO: New York Post, courtesy Newseum.

Comments
20 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

They don’t have much to go on. The two in the Post don’t match the clothing in the FBI photo and the FBI photos show men that, frankly, look more ME in coloring and in the shape of the man on the left’s nose. Most of the guy’s face of the right (in the FBI photo) is too obscured by the brim of his cap.

Boston is full of foreign students and kids carrying back packs to contain books and computers. Good Luck!

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive
 

Who else find it ironic that the Pulitzer prizes were awarded the same day as the Boston attack and in the next days so many U.S. media outlets trip over themselves with bad reporting, sensationalism and bold acts of non-journalism?

Posted by RobbMonty | Report as abusive
 

Murdoch and Drudge, two of the drivers of instant reporting, regardless whether it has any basis. And giving no apologies for being wrong.

The desire to be first out with a headline. What damages journalism is to consider them news outlets.

Posted by pavoter1946 | Report as abusive
 

Pavoter1946 has obviously confused Drudge with the idiots at NYT, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC as far as saying things that aren’t factual on a regular basis, and rarely,if ever, issuing a public correction to their infinite number of false and erroneous reports/stories. Get out of your bubble and take an honest look at the rest of the media without your darkly biased glasses on.

Posted by goldenruleblvr | Report as abusive
 

Jack Shafer is doing nothing more than trying to distract people from looking at the pi_s poor reporting that was done by all of his buddies at every other news site EXCEPT drudge. No one is buying your BS. You are a biased shill and obviously a fixture on the liberal plantation of skewed and under-reported news.(Gosnell trial coverage ring any bells?)You are what is wrong with journalism today. YOU are a BIG part of the PROBLEM and no where even CLOSE to being part of the solution. The only hope we have is as you and your generation turn into dust, that a new, more honest group of journalists will take your place and write scathing articles about the damage you and your ilk did to the profession during your involvement in it. Other than that, you simply disgust me.

Posted by goldenruleblvr | Report as abusive
 

If it were only mistakes, that wouldn’t be so bad. With respect to very specific information that I have precise knowledge of, I find the NEWS organizations intentionally lie to satisfy some industries, who may be advertisers or investors. Reuter’s is no different. Check any story that Reuter’s has done on electric vehicles. You might as well be reading a fairy tale.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive
 

The New York Post, like its owner, is trash.
Hopefully both will disappear!

Posted by KyleDexter | Report as abusive
 

Jack – Now that we know the facts, you can include MSNBC, ABC, Harvard School of Public Health, et al in your category of “diseased” media groups in need of kenneling. You can’t argue with the facts, Jack. Watch the following where they prematurely attribute this to far right wing American patriots…starts at 1:40 http://video.foxnews.com/v/2308458037001  /the-terror-situation-in-america-gets-e ven-more-intense/?playlist_id=9403257400 01 . You Jack, appear to represent the true disease in society, with your bias. Your bias is a blight on our country and a crippling of the fourth estate.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive
 

Jack – If you had a backbone and an ounce of journalistic integrity, now that we have the facts, you would write a follow up article excoriating MSNBC, ABC, Harvard School of Public Health, et al, for the same front-running behavior…yet in a far worse way than the NY Post. You won’t, and in advance, I expose you for what you are…a guy who is directly responsible for the terrible reputation our media has in the eyes of the American citizenry. Biased garbage.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive
 

The New York Times and the Washington Post are real newspapers. The Washington Times and New York Post are fake newspapers with names designed to confuse the feeble minded.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive
 

The blame, folks, lies within ourselves. Products and services are really a reflection of who we are. The New York Post (and all the other trashy newspapers) survives only because we buy it every day, week in and week out.

Posted by RudyF | Report as abusive
 

The New York Post was always a joke newspaper. Remember “Headless body found in topless bar”?

But the scuzziest, scummiest coverage came from the odious David Sirota who wrote in salon.com an article entitled: “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American”

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive
 

I don’t know why Shafer picked out this one newspaper. Most of the media coverage from every venue was terrible. It was embarrassing to watch these reporters blurting the latest conjuctures and speculation even as they endlessly discussed how this was unprofessional journalism! Good for us as Americans, the law enforcement agencies all seemed to be working well together with their A-game level of commitment and waaay more careful in what information they released to the public before it was vetted. Overall, the media gets an “F”. If I were head of some of these, heads would roll.

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive
 

(Unlike Magical Myth, I don’t enjoy firing people.)

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive
 

Those of you who read this story might be interested in a Jewish news source — Debkafile, which is a respected news source for ME military news — that seems to answer some of the questions posed above.

Reuters needs to be reminded often that “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

=========================

The Tsarnaev brothers were double agents who decoyed US into terror trap

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis April 20, 2013, 4:39 PM (GMT+02:00)

The big questions buzzing over Boston Bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have a single answer: It emerged in the 102 tense hours between the twin Boston Marathon bombings Monday, April 15 – which left three dead, 180 injured and a police officer killed at MIT – and Dzohkhar’s capture Friday, April 19 in Watertown.

The conclusion reached by debkafile’s counterterrorism and intelligence sources is that the brothers were double agents, hired by US and Saudi intelligence to penetrate the Wahhabi jihadist networks which, helped by Saudi financial institutions, had spread across the restive Russian Caucasian.

Instead, the two former Chechens betrayed their mission and went secretly over to the radical Islamist networks.

By this tortuous path, the brothers earned the dubious distinction of being the first terrorist operatives to import al Qaeda terror to the United States through a winding route outside the Middle East – the Caucasus.

This broad region encompasses the autonomous or semi-autonomous Muslim republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Chechnya, North Ossetia and Karachyevo-Cherkesiya, most of which the West has never heard of.

Moscow however keeps these republics on a tight military and intelligence leash, constantly putting down violent resistance by the Wahhabist cells, which draw support from certain Saudi sources and funds from the Riyadh government for building Wahhabist mosques and schools to disseminate the state religion of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis feared that their convoluted involvement in the Caucasus would come embarrassingly to light when a Saudi student was questioned about his involvement in the bombng attacks while in a Boston hospital with badly burned hands.

They were concerned to enough to send Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal to Washington Wednesday, April 17, in the middle of the Boston Marathon bombing crisis, for a private conversation with President Barack Obama and his national security adviser Tom Donilon on how to handle the Saudi angle of the bombing attack.
That day too, official Saudi domestic media launched an extraordinary three-day campaign. National and religious figures stood up and maintained that authentic Saudi Wahhabism does not espouse any form of terrorism or suicide jihadism and the national Saudi religion had nothing to do with the violence in Boston. “No matter what the nationality and religious of the perpetrators, they are terrorists and deviants who represent no one but themselves.”

Prince Saud was on a mission to clear the 30,000 Saudi students in America of suspicion of engaging in terrorism for their country or religion, a taint which still lingers twelve years after 9/11. He was concerned that exposure of the Tsarnaev brothers’ connections with Wahhabist groups in the Caucasus would revive the stigma.

The Tsarnaevs’ recruitment by US intelligence as penetration agents against terrorist networks in southern Russia explains some otherwise baffling features of the event:
1. An elite American college in Cambridge admitted younger brother Dzhokhar and granted him a $2,500 scholarship, without subjecting him to the exceptionally stiff standard conditions of admission. This may be explained by his older brother Tamerlan demanding this privilege for his kid brother in part payment for recruitment.
2. When in 2011, a “foreign government” (Russian intelligence) asked the FBI to screen Tamerlan for suspected ties to Caucasian Wahhabist cells during a period in which they had begun pledging allegiance to al Qaeda, the agency, it was officially revealed, found nothing incriminating against him and let him go after a short interview.

He was not placed under surveillance. Neither was there any attempt to hide the fact that he paid a long visit to Russia last year and on his return began promoting radical Islam on social media.
Yet even after the Boston marathon bombings, when law enforcement agencies, heavily reinforced by federal and state personnel, desperately hunted the perpetrators, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was never mentioned as a possible suspect

3. Friday, four days after the twin explosions at the marathon finishing line, the FBI released footage of Suspect No. 1 in a black hat and Suspect No. 2 in a white hat walking briskly away from the crime scene, and appealed to the public to help the authorities identify the pair.
We now know this was a charade. The authorities knew exactly who they were. Suddenly, during the police pursuit of their getaway car from the MIT campus on Friday, they were fully identified. The brother who was killed in the chase was named Tamerlan, aged 26, and the one who escaped, only to be hunted down Saturday night hiding in a boat, was 19-year old Dzhokhar.

Our intelligence sources say that we may never know more than we do today about the Boston terrorist outrage which shook America – and most strikingly, Washington – this week. We may not have the full story of when and how the Chechen brothers were recruited by US intelligence as penetration agents – any more than we have got to the bottom of tales of other American double agents who turned coat and bit their recruiters.

Here is just a short list of some of the Chechen brothers’ two-faced predecessors:

In the 1980s, an Egyptian called Ali Abdul Saoud Mohamed offered his services as a spy to the CIA residence in Cairo. He was hired, even though he was at the time the official interpreter of Ayman al-Zuwahiri, then Osama bin Laden’s senior lieutenant and currently his successor.

He accounted for this by posing as a defector. But then, he turned out to be feeding al Qaeda US military secrets. Later, he was charged with Al Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam.
On Dec. 30, 2009, the Jordanian physician Humam Khalil al-Balawi, having gained the trust of US intelligence in Afghanistan as an agent capable of penetrating al Qaeda’s top ranks, detonated a bomb at a prearranged rendezvous in Kost, killing the four top CIA agents in the country.
Then, there was the French Muslim Mohamed Merah. He was recruited by French intelligence to penetrate Islamist terror cells in at least eight countries, including the Caucasus. At the end of last year, he revealed his true spots in deadly attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse and a group of French military commandoes.

The debate has begun over the interrogation of the captured Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarmayev when he is fit for questioning after surgery for two bullet wounds and loss of blood. The first was inflicted during the police chase in which his brother Tamerlan was killed.

An ordinary suspect would be read his rights (Miranda) and be permitted a lawyer. In his case, the “public safety exemption” option may be invoked, permitting him to be questioned without those rights, provided the interrogation is restricted to immediate public safety concerns. President Barack Obama is also entitled to rule him an “enemy combatant” and so refer him to a military tribunal and unrestricted grilling.

According to debkafile’s counter terror sources, four questions should top the interrogators’ agenda:

a) At what date did the Tsarnaev brothers turn coat and decide to work for Caucasian Wahhabi networks?

b) Did they round up recruits for those networks in the United States – particularly, among the Caucasian and Saudi communities?
c) What was the exact purpose of the Boston Marathon bombings and their aftermath at MIT in Watertown?
d) Are any more terrorist attacks in the works in other American cities?

—————————–

http://www.debka.com/article/22914/The-T sarnaev-brothers-were-double-agents-who- decoyed-US-into-terror-trap

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive
 

GEORGE SOROS IS DEAD!

Oops, says Reuters, who published nasty obituary before George was even cold.

How’s that for a “shameless paper in mindless fog”?

=======================

“Red-faced Reuters prematurely publishes George Soros obituary”

News agency declares billionaire financier dead in less-than-flattering obituary – before removing article after 30 minutes

Simon Neville
guardian.co.uk, Friday 19 April 2013 05.50 EDT

Rumours of George Soros’s death were greatly exaggerated.

Reuters has been left red-faced after it accidentally published a pre-written obituary of billionaire financier George Soros.

Published for 30 minutes on Thursday night, it starts: “George Soros, who died XXX at age XXX, was a predatory and hugely successful financier and investor, who argued paradoxically for years against the same sort of free-wheeling capitalism that made him billions.” The piece, written by Todd Eastham, carries on in a pointed vein, referring to the 82-year-old’s multibillion-pound currency gambles, including a famed punt against the pound that led to a political watershed for the post-Thatcher Conservative government in the early 1990s.

“He was known as ‘the man who broke the Bank of England’ for selling short the British pound in 1992 and helping force the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which devalued the pound and earned Soros more than $1bn (£650m). And his Soros Fund Management was widely blamed for helping trigger the Asian financial crisis of 1997, by selling short the Thai baht and Malaysian ringgit.”

Reuters removed the article within 30 minutes, although references could still be found on Friday morning via Google searches, and apologised to Soros for the mistake. By then, however, Twitter had done its work.

The 1,000-word article lists several of Soros’s philanthropic endeavours, which according to his Wikipedia page include giving away over $8bn to human rights, public health and education causes. But the first half prefers to dwell on perceived faults while arguing that he was contrary in his views. For instance, it includes comments by economist Paul Krugman, who accuses Soros of helping trigger financial crises from which he benefited.

Reuters said in a statement: “Reuters erroneously published an advance obituary of financier and philanthropist George Soros. A spokesman for Soros said that the New York-based financier is alive and well. Reuters regrets the error.”

It is not uncommon for obituaries to be written before the death of a prominent politician, businessman or celebrity. However, publishing one is more unusual.

This week, with the death of Margaret Thatcher, the former political editor of the now-defunct News of the World, David Wooding, published pictures of what the former PM’s souvenir pullout would have looked like – had she not outlived the paper.

————————————-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/ apr/19/reuters-george-soros-obituary-pre mature-publication

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive
 

Completely laughable…… All “mainstream” journalists should be ashamed. They contribute to the dumbing down of the world more than any other.

WHY ARE THE AUTHORITIES NEVER ASKED REAL QUESTIONS?

SPINELESS REPORTERS GOBBLE UP ANYTHING THE US GOVT SAYS AS FACT.

WHAT ABOUT THE SAUDI WITH LINKS TO AL QUAEDA? MEDIA WILLFULLY DISMISSES THIS.

WHEN IS CONSPIRACY THEORY CONSPIRACY FACT?

Posted by Useyourdome | Report as abusive
 

Hows about the mindless fog of every western newspaper whipping us into war frenzy 10 or so years ago? Howsbout that? Eh, mister perfect?

Posted by myballs | Report as abusive
 

I lived in NYC for many years and the Post was always a rag.

I think even that long ago, only the most profoundly ignorant and/or uneducated took it at face value.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive
 

The New York Post is, of course, worthless trash — just sensationalism, lies, and looney-tunes propaganda based on crazed ideology from the far, far right.

But then, what do you expect from a rag owned by that ancient villain Rupert Murdoch, the same villain who created the hate propaganda channel known as Fox”News”.

Posted by Mike113 | Report as abusive
 

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