Where has all the investigative reporting gone? To the blogosphere.

Amanda Taub takes a hard look at reporting by the AP, the New York Times, and Reuters, and finds all three may have been duped by a Darfuri rebel leader–and refuse to acknowledge the possibility.

After weeks of research, I have been unable to find any information that makes me think Abu Sharati, supposedly the “representative” of Darfuri refugees and IDPs, exists -except to the extent that someone, who possesses neither that name nor that position, has been making statements to the press. And that whoever that person is, he is apparently awfully fond of the rebel leader Abdel Wahid Al-Nur.

I cannot think of any way to interpret the information I have been given that would allow me to conclude that no journalist has either (a) lied to me, (b) failed to follow the professional ethics that a journalist should, or (c) been duped by a fake “refugee representative” when any minor amount of digging or critical thought would have alerted them that there was more to the story. Frankly, the Occam’s Razor explanation here really seems like it’s (d): all of the above.

So, does it matter? Is it a big deal if a few journalists messed up, and accidentally published quotes from a mythical character, presenting them as if they represent a unified refugee position on the stories in question?

Yes. It matters.

Read Part I and Part II if nothing else, and Part III for the finale.

Think this is worth a second look by the Times? Email the public editor, the foreign desk, and the news department by clicking on the links. Want some ready-made text? Try the following (polite version):

Subject: Potentially misleading quotes of Darfuri refugee representative

To the Times:

I wanted to draw your attention to the investigative work of Amanda Taub, who has identified NYT quotes that were attributed to a Darfuri refugee representative whom her evidence suggests does not exist. Her description of your reporters’ response raises serious concerns about the quality and ethics of their reporting. The matters seems worthy of a closer look by senior Times staff.

Ms. Taub’s investigation can be seen here: http://wrongingrights.blogspot.com/2009/10/part-i-who-is-abu-sharati-and-why-am-i.html. This link is followed by two further parts.

Thank you for your attention to the matter.

Sincerely,

3 thoughts on “Where has all the investigative reporting gone? To the blogosphere.

  1. There are a lot of days in which I’m deeply glad that I have recognized that I haven’t the foggiest idea of what’s going on in Darfur, except that it’s bad and I am powerless to meaningfully affect it.

  2. I have emailed NY Times at all three email addressed mentioned. I am appalled at such sloppy reporting. This is why I don’t read newspapers.

  3. It’s ok Chris, we have hide power from truth reporters like Anne Kornblut on the case at the WaPo!

    Check out her sources on a recent piece about counter-terrorism:
    Obama aides pointed . . . administration officials said . . . a senior administration official said . . . officials said . . . a senior administration official said . . . senior Obama officials stressed . . . a senior administration official said . . . aides said . . . officials said . . . one senior administration official said. . . . one senior official said. . . . The official said . . . a senior administration official said . . . a senior administration official said . . . administration officials said . . . . a senior official said.

    I would call our current corporate media stenographers, but that would be an insult to a useful profession. They truly are toadies who exist only to tour the cocktail party and reassure the politicos that they are just making “the tough calls”. Pathetic.

    The original article:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/05/AR2009100503989.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2009100503990

    The Glenn Greenwald post:
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/10/06/obama/index.html