Since James Joyner got me talking about the blogosphere's last media scandal, I may as well say a few words on the current edition. To be honest, I've had a really hard time figuring out exactly what Newsweek did wrong. One of their stories was poorly sourced and they deserve a rap on the knuckles, but that's exactly what a public retraction is. They wrote that an upcoming government report would include allegations of Koran-flushing. They were wrong. The report, as it turns out, may not include said allegations so Newsweek publicly admitted error and informed their readers of the inaccuracy. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn't that how the media is supposed to work? This isn't "Rathergate", where some operative tipped off a blog and CBS resisted for a few weeks before admitting error. This isn't, in fact, anything found by anyone but Newsweek. They self-policed. The system worked. They should be more careful. Where's the beef?
In keeping with my desire to not spend time dealing with absurd spin, I'm not going to spend many words rebutting McLellan's mind-boggling assertion that Newsweek has damaged America's image abroad, as it wrongly presupposes that Bush left Newsweek an image, rather than demonic visage, to damage. I'm also going to ignore the odd argument that their report caused riots, Gen. Myers, the US Army official in charge of Afghanistan, has summarily dismissed that.
What I will say, however, is that the left can play as much a role as the right in how this scandal plays out. Unlike Eason Jordan, unlike Dan Rather, Newsweek has done everything right. In fact, they've been doing everything right for a few years now. They regularly break tough stories, pursue important issues, and prove that their investigative reporting team is top notch. They're what a popular newsweekly should be.
As of now, the right is following its usual M.O -- use a single slip-up to discredit a whole media organization and cry so loudly about their newfound credibility gap that said institution is cowed into safer, less "dangerous" reporting. We watched it happen with CBS. I'd like Newsweek to escape that fate. So if you were thinking about subscribing to Newsweek, their honorable behavior here makes this a damn good time. Otherwise, sending them a letter to the editor noting how important it is for news magazines to take risks in their reporting and be honest about their mistakes, and ending by telling Newsweek what an exemplary job they've done on both counts wouldn't be a bad idea. The right is constantly playing this game and since they make all the noise, they win. If that's to end, we're going to have to start offering clamors of our own.
So, if you're interested:
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)