***update: a response from CBS News’s Public Eye blog…more below…***
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan
First, read this heart-rending appeal from Lara Logan complaining about CBS News refusing to air one of her Haifa Street reports, which highlighted a masked “Haifa Street resident” who “blamed the fighting on the U.S. Here’s a screen shot of her source:
“Haifa Street resident”
CBS didn’t air the video on the nightly news because it was “too graphic for an evening news audience” according to a CBS News spokesperson. But it did put the video on its website.
And it’s up at YouTube:
There may be an even greater reason for CBS not to have put Logan’s report on the nightly news.
The footage “obtained by CBS” is identical to that put out by Al-Qaeda. But Logan makes no mention of Al-Qaeda’s video and does not address the implication that the footage she used was off an Al-Qaeda video. And if it’s not off the Al-Qaeda video, then how did she get footage identical to the one used by Al-Qaeda? This needs to be explained.
Furthermore, and this is the most damning indication of journalistic incompetence, Logan makes no mention about the affiliation of these insurgents fighting on Haifa Street. Not even the slightest mention is made that Al-Qaeda is taking credit for the fighting there. On the contrary, the audience is treated to a blanket accusation by an anonymous civilian (wearing a headdress in the insurgent manner) denouncing the Americans and the destruction they’ve brought to bear on Haifa Street. Hey Logan, how about tempering your report with something about insurgent activity? The report sounded as if the American and Iraqi forces were pounding Haifa Street for the fun of it.
It would seem that the Al-Furqan propagandists exhibited more journalistic accuracy than CBS News on this count.
Robert Stevens posts screen grabs from the al Qaeda video.
See also Newsbusters.
I’ve asked CBS News’s Public Eye for comment. Stay tuned.
Will the MSM jump all over this like they mauled Fox News over the Insight/Obama report, flog it ’til kingdom come, and summon every last media ethicist to debate the need for transparency and honest reporting, if al Qaeda or al Qaeda-linked operatives turn out to be the source of Logan’s video?
Update from Brian Montopoli at CBS News’s Public Eye, who responded promptly and is waiting to hear back from Logan:
I asked CBS News Vice President Paul Friedman about the video.
“I can assure you this was not from Al-Qaeda,” said Friedman, who declined to identify the source. “Whenever we can identify the source of information or video, we want to do that,” he added. “There are some rare cases when we have to protect the source. In this case, we needed to do so, because it’s literally a matter of life and death.”
“The fact that same video shows up in more than one place is something that happens every day,” said CBS News spokeswoman Sandra Genelius. “We occasionally use video from an Al-Qaeda Web site and we identify it. In this case, we didn’t get it from Al-Qaeda, so we didn’t identify it as such.”
Robert Stevens via Jeff Goldstein:
Either [Logan] lifted it from the ISI vid, as you suggested, or, CBS did it without her knowledge, or (shudder) it was provided to her by ISI.
[...] it is possible that whoever supplied the video to Al-Furqan also supplied it to CBS. Or, more likely, the video was passed around among the Sunnis and someone decided to make a buck by supplying it to CBS.
Do you know if Logan, like CNN’s Arwa Damon, is fluent in Arabic? If not, then it would be easy for an Iraqi stringer to have obtained the video and without telling Logan that it was, at the time she filed her story, official Islamic State of Iraq, and therefore Al-Qaeda, video.
Even so, Logan is a seasoned war correspondent and I’m surprised that this got past her. CBS is another story.
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Of course, this being CBS, I’m not quite so willing to rule out knowing malfeasance on the part of their production and editorial staffs, however slyly they may have distanced themselves from potential repercussions by relegating the report to their website. After all, the mainstream press in this country has clearly chosen sides in the prosecution of this war, which makes much of what they do, even when their mistakes are inadvertant and the result of confirmation bias and/or reportorial laziness, rightly suspect, especially given that they now have a clearly-drawn metanarrative of the Iraq war both to (re)inscribe and protect.
And this is CBS, the network that practically canonized the “fake but accurate” maneuver—a trope I once thought would redound to their shame, but one that in the years since Rather’s humiliation seems to morphed into an acceptable weapon in the arsenal of journalists who have come to think of themselves as teaching the lessons of news rather than simply reporting on it. The Doctrine of Truthiness, if you will.
CBS didn’t run the report on its evening newscast, claiming it was “too graphic for an evening news audience” (Logan pleaded for them to do so); they did however, as I noted earlier, place it on their website. So the question becomes, is it possible that CBS—perhaps sensing something was amiss (or perhaps completely aware that something was amiss)—placed the report on their website hoping to allow the video to circulate without having to do any of the hard work of pinpointing its origins or adding context? Did they provide themselves with plausible deniability?
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