Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'NYT' Public Editor Hits Paper's Surge in Blaming 'Al-Qaeda' in Iraq

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'NYT' Public Editor Hits Paper's Surge in Blaming 'Al-Qaeda' in Iraq

Article excerpt

In a remarkable column today, Clark Hoyt, the newly arrived public editor at The New York Times, charges that the Times in recent weeks has too often gone along with the new drive by the White House and the military to blame insurgent attacks on al-Qaeda. The column arrives on the same day the paper calls for a U.S. pullout in Iraq. .

E&P and other news outlets last week had noted the same tendency in the Times in the reporting of Michael R. Gordon and others. A top Times editor admits to Hoyt that the paper's reporting in this regard has become "sloppy."

Hoyt, who has had a long and varied high-level newspaper reporting and editing career, most recently directed the Iraq reporting out of the Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) Washington bureau which gained plaudits for its tough and skeptical reporting on the run-up to the war and progress since.

Today, Hoyt charges that the Times "in recent weeks as the newspaper has slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about Al Qaeda's role in Iraq -- and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution.

"And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn't even exist until after the American invasion.

"There is plenty of evidence that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is but one of the challenges facing the United States military and that overemphasizing it distorts the true picture of what is happening there. While a president running out of time and policy options may want to talk about a single enemy that Americans hate and fear in the hope of uniting the country behind him, journalists have the obligation to ask tough questions about the accuracy of his statements. …

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