Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hair-splitting at Slate

I haven't been part of the "lynch Isikoff" crowd from day one. I have felt that Newsweek, not its reporter Mike Isikoff, deserves the blame for the Koran-flushing scandal. The problem is that Newsweek has a section, "Periscope," that has slack standards and allows publication of inflammatory items on the word of a single source.

Still, Newsweek is to blame--for being wrong and also for inflating the number of sources for the item. Today, Slate's usually coherent Jack Shafer splits hairs to defend Newsweek from the source-inflation charge.

The original item said: "Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur'an down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash."

Shafer maintains that what you just read--the words "sources tell NEWSWEEK"--"doesn't claim multiple sources for the Quran allegation. It claims multiple sources for the Quran allegation plus the anecdote about the dog leash."

Baloney! This reminds me of the old Groucho Marx joke: "What do belief, me or your own two eyes?"

The Periscope item didn't just imply--it flat-out SAID--that the Quran flushing and dog leash stuff took place in the same multi-sourced incident.

Stand in the corner, Jack. Keep it up, and you'll get the Jon Friedman Memorial Award for Worst Media Commentary.

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