Annals of Journalism: A Worthy Innovation From the NY Times

A Taliban spokesman has denied the accusation that the group was behind the horrific suicide bombing in northern Afghanistan yesterday. In reporting on the attack, the New York Times twice made careful mention of the fact that the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, "has been unreliable" and "often made erroneous claims" in the past. No doubt this is true. We commend the Times for putting Mujahid's comments in the proper perspective, so that informed readers can decide how much credibility his statements may or may not have.

However, we recommend that this rigorous but fair journalistic standard be applied across the board. Why not try it the next time an Administration official or a White House spokesperson – or indeed, a White House resident – makes a public statement? For instance: "General David Petraeus, whose claims of progress in Iraq have often proved erroneous in the past, said today that the new security measures in Baghdad are bringing a sense of stability to the city, etc. etc." Or: "President Bush, whose unreliable claims of great danger from Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction led the nation into one of the longest, most costly and divisive wars in its history, said today that Iran poses a dire threat to America's freedom and must be prevented etc., etc."

See? Rigorous but fair. It could be a whole new trend in corporate journalism! Let's hope it catches on.
***