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The curse of single sourcing has bitten more than just the AP lately. Insight Magazine, a publication of the Washington Times, ran a single-sourced story last Friday about Barack Obama regarding the choice of school his stepfather made while they lived in Indonesia, and Fox News spent all day talking about it. In this case, Fox used the news item to hit at both Obama and Hillary Clinton without ever confirming anything about the sourcing. Howard Kurtz, in his indispensable media-watch column, explains:
Insight, a magazine owned by the Washington Times, cited unnamed sources in saying that young Barack attended a madrassah, or Muslim religious school, in Indonesia. In his 1995 autobiography, Obama said his Indonesian stepfather had sent him to a "predominantly Muslim school" in Jakarta, after two years in a Catholic school -- but Insight goes further in saying it was a madrassah and that Obama was raised as a Muslim.
Fox News picked up the Insight charge on two of its programs, playing up an angle involving Hillary Clinton. The magazine, citing only unnamed sources, said that researchers "connected" to the New York senator were allegedly spreading the information about her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. ...
On the morning show "Fox & Friends" on Friday, co-host Steve Doocy said that madrassahs are financed by Saudis and teach a radical version of Islam known as Wahhabism, though he said there was a question whether that was the curriculum in the late 1960s, when Obama attended the school. Another co-host, Gretchen Carlson, said that those on the show weren't referring to all Muslims, only "the kind that want to blow us up." ...
On Friday afternoon, John Gibson, host of Fox's "The Big Story," began a segment this way: "Hillary Clinton reported to be already digging up the dirt on Barack Obama. The New York senator has reportedly outed Obama's madrassah past. That's right, the Clinton team reported to have pulled out all the stops to reveal something Obama would rather you didn't know -- that he was educated in a Muslim madrassah."
Kurtz reminds readers that reputable news agencies used to refuse to run stories from anonymous sources unless they could get independent confirmation. Those days are apparently over. Instead, we have the dynamic of one news agency running a story, and then other news agencies report on the reporting of that story, until everyone forgets that the basis of the entire issue came from one source, and one who refused to go on the record at that.
Obama included his educational history in his memoirs. It seems more than a little irrelevant what kind of school in which his parents enrolled him when he counted his age in single digits. Obama has not lived his life as a Muslim but as a Christian, and received most of his education in American public schools. (Maybe we should be questioning that.) He isn't a stealth Muslim regardless of his middle name or his two-year attendance in a school in Indonesia. Nor does anyone offer any proof that this information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Granted, it sounds like the kind of character assassination that the Clinton team performed in the past, especially James Carville, but unless Gibson has some proof that it came from Hillary's campaign, then he shouldn't have speculated on it on national TV. (I actually heard both broadcasts on Friday and wondered about the sourcing.)
This is no different than the Jamil Hussein embarrassment at the AP. The news agency used a single source, hiding behind a pseudonym without any notification to the reader that the source was not named, to publish dozens of reports of atrocities in Iraq. The AP made little attempt at corroboration, and then refused to acknowledge the fact that they had violated their own rules for reporting, including the single-sourcing that created the entire problem. Even after Michelle Malkin went to Baghdad and showed that the "destroyed" mosques still stand, the AP has yet to apologize or retract their stories. In the meantime, the Jamil Hussein stories got picked up and published around the world.
Both incidents should serve as reminders that single-sourcing only belongs in gossip columns. If a reputable news agency can't confirm information from an anonymous source, they shouldn't use it. And when they do, other news agencies shouldn't allow that to form the basis of their own reporting without their own independent confirmation. It erodes their credibility and leaves us wondering what their editors actually do for a living.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Fox News got caught pushing a smear of Sen. Barack Obama that began with an annonymous-sourced story in Insight magazine, put out by The Washington Times. The magazine claims Obama went to a Muslim madrassa as a child. Maybe, maybe not. The point is Fo... [Read More]
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