THE BRITISH PRESS….A few days ago I blogged about a story in the Guardian reporting that Colin Powell and Jack Straw had met in New York in February and had expressed doubts about the quality of the intelligence reports they were using. Today the Guardian retracted the story: “Mr Straw has now made it clear that no such meeting took place. The Guardian accepts that and apologises for suggesting it did.”
Also today, the Guardian removed from its website yesterday’s story that contained the mistranslation of Paul Wolfowitz’s remarks. Bad day for the Guardian.
However, there is one odd thing about all this: they didn’t remove that first story, the way they did with the second one. And the retraction is very low key: they accept that the meeting never took place, but they don’t actually say that Powell and Straw didn’t have doubts about the intelligence reports.
There’s something fishy about this. What was their source for this story? Was it completely bogus, or was only the report of the meeting wrong? Was it a phone call, not a meeting? And if the story was completely wrong, why not remove it from their website? I have a feeling there’s a little more to be learned about this.
And here’s a thought: I’ve been trying to figure out what the British press reminds me of, and I think I have it now: they remind me of blogs. It’s not just that they’re sensationalistic and partisan ? there are American newspapers that fit that description too ? it’s that they seem willing to print pretty much any rumor from anywhere without bothering to check it. If it’s wrong ? well, tomorrow’s another day.
Say what you will about the American press, but they do mostly try to verify the information they print. From now on, at least mentally, I’m going to think of the British press as guardian.blogspot.com, telegraph.blogspot.com, etc. That seems like the appropriate level of skepticism.