Monday, September 11, 2006
PAPER NOT FOR TURNING
The Guardian’s Ian Mayes investigates coverage of the Lebanese Red Cross ambulance story:
I have received a number of emails referring to the zombietime website, one from a reader describing his complaint as “purely personal” concluding, “Before I take this complaint forward to the PCC [the Press Complaints Commission] I would appreciate your comments on the linked website and also whether you intend to retract the story.” On the basis of my inquiries over several days last week I do not intend to suggest that the paper should retract its report.
No surprise there; the Guardian is yet to retract its plastic turkey lie of three years ago. Mayes continues:
Two Australian newspapers, in fact, revisited the story after the country’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, accused some of the world’s “most prestigious media” of falling for a hoax. One of them, the Australian, carried its rebuttal under the heading: “Downer’s unfounded faith in the internet”, and it accused him of being hoaxed by what it called “a callous blog” (zombietime is a website not a blog). The heading on the Age story speaks for itself: “Ambulance attack evidence stands the test.”
What the zombietime website, which takes issue with both of these Australian rebuttals, does show is a fairly large number of inconsistencies and anomalies in the reporting and pictorial coverage of the event across the media: whether these are larger in number than might normally be expected to occur in reporting from a war zone is a matter for conjecture.
Mayes, reasonably enough, allows for “inconsistencies and anomalies” in reporting from war zones. Perhaps, then, the Guardian’s initial report should have indicated some fog-of-war doubt over the claims made to their correspondent instead of stating as fact: “Israel’s rocket strike on two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances on Sunday night set a deadly new milestone ... Two ambulances were entirely destroyed, their roofs pierced by missiles.” Next, Mayes dives for the fake-but-true defence:
A Guardian picture archivist with a special interest in images from areas of conflict, who carried out extensive research for me, concluded that there was cause for doubt about the nature of the munitions involved and the manner of their delivery, but not in the reality of the attack.
Great work, Clouseau.
[Guardian reporter] Suzanne Goldenberg told me: “I remain confident that the story was true.” She points out that she and Sean Smith reported the story first hand and independently and did not rely on what purported to be amateur video footage of the incident.
There isn’t any footage of “the incident”. Only of the alleged aftermath. Read on for more Guardian waffle.