Tuesday, November 28, 2006

# Posted 10:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ILLUSTRIOUS NETWORK NEWS: Much to NBC's credit, the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams is now available as a video podcast. The show has been available for quite some time as an audio podcast, but I've always considered the images to be the added value of television news.

So what have I discovered now that I watch the same news program as approximately 10 million other Americans?

First of all, the producers will sometimes go to Onion-esque lengths to provide some sort of image along with their story. Last Friday night, Brian Williams soberly reported that Shi'ite militias had dragged six Sunni men out of a Baghdad mosque, doused them in gasoline and burned them alive.

Rather than having Williams just speak into a camera, NBC broadcast stock footage of men walking out of a mosque. Then, the image of flames appeared as an overlay on the screen, gradually becoming brighter and more intense until the men could no longer be seen. I guess that's news.

Another noteworty attribute of Friday night's broadcast was the absence of any "he said-she said" journalism in the long opening segment on Iraq. Bowing to current convention, NBC still titled its report "Civil War?" rather than "Civil War". But the answer to "Civil War?" was pretty much "Yes".

There was no soundbite from the president or any other administration spokesman. Instead, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and NBC analyst Bernard Trainor (author of Cobra II) delivered brooding, unpleasant assessments of the war. I think their comments were justified, but they certainly didn't represent an effort to seek out opposing perspectives.

In addition, NBC's correspondent at the Pentagon offered his own assessment of what conditions would lead the administration to admit that Iraq is in the midst of a civl war. I thought his commentary was actually insightful, but the point again is that NBC offered a perspective not a two-sides to every story report.

I'm curious to see if this approach persists over time, or if it is only possible because Iraq is an issue where optimism has so worn out its welcome that NBC doesn't have to bother with opposing perspectives.
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Maybe the reason NBC couldn't find any better, non-Onionesque images was because the immolation likely never happend.

The following is a letter that has been heavily circulated amongst officers here in Iraq from a Public Affairs Officer in MNC-I to the Associated Press (who first reported the story) regarding the authenticity of their sources:

Dear Associated Press:
On Nov. 24, 2006, your organization published an article by Qais Al-Bashir about six Sunnis being burned alive in the presence of Iraqi Police officers. This news item, which is below, received an enormous amount of coverage internationally.
We at Multi-National Corps - Iraq made it known through MNC-I Press Release Number 20061125-09 and our conversations with your reporters that neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. A couple of hours ago, we learned something else very important.
We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.
Also, we definitely know, as we told you several weeks ago through the MNC-I Media Relations cell, that another AP-popular IP spokesman, Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq, supposedly of the city's Yarmouk police station, does not work at that police station and is also not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP. The MOI has supposedly issued a warrant for his questioning.
I know we have informed you that there exists an MOI edict that no one below the level of chief is authorized to be an Iraqi Police spokesperson. An unauthorized IP spokesperson will get fired for talking to the media. While I understand the importance of a news agency to use anonymous and unauthorized sources, it is still incumbent upon them to make sure their facts are straight. Was this information verified by anyone else? If the source providing the information is lying about his name, then he ought not to be represented as an official IP spokesperson and should be listed as an anonymous source.
Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum, acknowledging that the source named in the story is not who he claimed he was. MNC-I and MNF-I are always available and willing to verify events and provide as much information as possible when asked.

Very respectfully,
LT xxxx

xxxxxxx xxxx
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
MNC-I Joint Operations Center
Public Affairs Officer
It is time for some in the media to stop using the AP.
We have people here in the US burning themselves over the war in Iraq and because of the government's belligerence. It is a sad state of affairs.

Take a look

The link above did not show because it is too long...
I shortened it, here it is:

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