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   NYT Flaks for Government by Omitting Three Critical Words

MEDIA CRITICISM:

NYT Flaks for Government by Omitting Three Critical Words

by Alice Cherbonnier

The front page lead story in today's Baltimore Sun is from the New York Times wire service.The story is being published today all over the US, not to mention outside this country. Yet it contains, in its very first sentence, a serious breach of journalistic practice. We sure hope we aren't alone in noticing it.

For fair comment purposes, here is the critical first paragraph:

Army Is Reluctant to Flaunt Photos of Hussein's Sons

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR and NEELA BANERJEE

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 23 - The United States holds irrefutable proof that Saddam Hussein's sons are dead, including dental records and visual confirmation from four of the deposed dictator's aides, but a skeptical Iraqi public held out today for photographs and the occupying authority did not broadcast them.....

Note that the "journalists" say, without any qualification, that the US "holds irrefutable proof" that the sons are dead. How in the world could they know this? They SHOULD have said "The US CLAIMS TO HAVE irrefutable proof that Saddam Hussein's sons are dead, including..." The lack of such qualification puts the journalists (and the New York Times by extension) in the position of guarantors by proxy that the US in fact has such proof. We sure hope it does, for the sake of our nation's reputation; but journalists should not rubber-stamp government pronouncements without proof of their own.



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This story was published on July 24, 2003.
  
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