Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Editor's Note

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

Twenty-seven news stories appeared in the front section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday, Feb. 5. Two of the stories carried the bylines of Post reporters. The rest came from wire services-AP, Knight Ridder, The New York Times and so on. This isn't unusual. Most Sundays the front section of the Post is filled with wire-service stories.

Nobody at the Post, not a single person, can vouch for the content of these wire-service reports. There's no fact checking, no follow-up calls. No one at the Post talked to any of the sources in these articles. The stories were just clipped and pasted into the newspaper.

In other words, each Sunday (the day with the highest circulation) the front section of the Post (where tens of thousands of people get much of their national and international news) is nothing more than a reprint of the work of other publications and wire services. Post employees cannot personally attest to the veracity of any of the information in these stories.

Still, most of these wire services have excellent reputations. The Associated Press, for example, is known for being factual and fair. It rarely screws up. And many newspapers depend on wire services.

But not that long ago, the Post was forced to apologize for carrying New York Times pieces that were not only wrong but virtual propaganda. During the run-up to the American invasion of Iraq, The Times ran story after story with supposedly unimpeachable off-the-record sources who asserted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq had ties to Al Qaeda. The Post clipped those stories and ran them as if they were true. Later, it was discovered that Judith Miller, the Times reporter who wrote most of the articles, was simply passing along information from people inside the Bush White House. She was eventually forced to resign.

I'm not blaming the Post for creating the smoke and mirrors that led many Americans to believe the invasion of Iraq was justified. …

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