Tonight I spent hours trying to report a story that I think may be impossible to report accurately because of how poorly journalists have handled it.
Friday afternoon, some American and about 40 Iraqi troops (or 200 or 300) raided the Abu Hanifa mosque and killed 2 (or 3 or 4) Iraqis, either during or just after prayer. This happened either inside or outside of the mosque. After the raid, US/Iraqi troops arrested 17 Iraqis... or was it 30? Or maybe 40? Oh, and they also wounded 9 Iraqis. Or 20.
My point is, Iraq has become so chaotic, no one can get a straight story, or even close to one. It's been that way for a while, now, but today's incident punctuated reality for anal retentive editors like those of us at TNS. And reporters were to some extent unable to do their job by not being able to reach the scene.
But the reporters are not blameless. In their rush to be first to file, reporters in Iraq are running roughshod over accuracy in order to get the story out. The contemporary 24-hour news cycle is a breakneck operation, and accuracy has been its first casualty. Even still, that doesn't explain the whole problem.
What's worst of all is that reporters and their editors have largely decided they no longer have to cite sources -- they can just state facts and make assertions without indicating to their readers where and how they obtained the information. Reporters are just ripping off each other's stuff, apparently without even bothering to wonder where the place they're stealing their stories from obtained their own versions in the first place.
In fact, they can outright plagiarize one another, and no one seems to notice or care. Compare, for instance, this article in The Independent, a British paper that American progressives practically worship. That piece, attributed to "Tini Tran in Baghdad," is actually just the AP wire story. Maybe that's a common mistake, not pointing out that you copied-and-pasted the story from elsewhere, but I've been seeing it a lot lately.
And if you look at all the news stories linked to above, and in the TNS report I finally managed to cull together, you'll get the idea that a lot of these journalists are just drawing off of each other's material and pretending they did their own research.
Nevertheless, despite some inconsistencies, it appears that Dahr Jamail's reporting stole the show on this story, as he received a phone call from one of his fixers, who inside the mosque while the raid was underway and gave real-time updates to Dahr. We aren't playing the race to the finish game, but it's always good to see a progressive independent journalist whip the corporate big boys at their own sport.