Saturday, June 07, 2003

Strange News Developments And Non-Developments

As I was writing the previous post below on secrecy or lies having to go, ABC News seems to have changed its headline for the story from the original one, which was along the lines of "Retired Official Says U.S. Distorted Evidence For War", to "Questions Linger Over Iraq Weapons Claims". Now, this change has the strangest timing, because I've been spending the last half-hour trying to find this story, which was issued by AP early this morning, on CNN or Fox News. Poking through CNN is how I found the Dean article below.

Two observations stand out. First, why isn't CNN or Fox News covering this story straight off the AP news wire? Is the source not credible? Since the overwhelming volume of the news they report is from AP, I doubt it. Is this an example of the dangers of concentrated corporate media ownership? One can speculate. If you search this article on Google, you'll find a long line of media sources who have picked this story up off the wire. Is there something preventing CNN and Fox News from doing the same?

Second, the headline change to "Questions Linger Over Iraq Weapons Claims" is very fishy. I credit ABC News for reporting the story, but why change the headline hours later? The new headline is very ambiguous, at least in terms of pure English, by now making it unclear whose claims are being questioned. Iraq's, America's, Britain's, Congo's, Scott Peterson's? Whose claims are they? For many, this now may sound like just another boring story, and will blend into the background. Almost every other media outlet has gone with something very close, if not the same, as the headline from the original AP wire story, which is something like the aforementioned "Retired Official Says U.S. Distorted Evidence For War". Now, that is much more clear as to the content of the article, and who is doing what. Why did ABC News suddenly change theirs?

This is disturbing. Not all is bad though. At least we can be sure that a lot of the more independent media outlets are working, along with our main wire source, AP, and the driving force behind all of this, Newsweek, in a story on intelligence problems in the latest issue.
A recently retired State Department intelligence analyst directly involved in assessing the Iraqi threat, Greg Thielmann, flatly told NEWSWEEK that inside the government, “there is a lot of sorrow and anger at the way intelligence was misused. You get a strong impression that the administration didn’t think the public would be enthusiastic about the idea of war if you attached all those qualifiers.”

Update: It seems that ABC News has massaged the content and tone of the original AP article as well. Signifigantly. Yet they still cite the article as from the AP.

Update: This is not about ABC News. The network deserves much credit for running this story, in its many versions. After further review, it seems that AP keeps resending the story, which explains why ABC News has had 3 versions now, the 2nd and 3rd version differing only by headline. I would add that the headline for the 3rd version, "Bush, Blair Face Heat Over Weapons", is much better than the 2nd version headline. So good work there from the AP as well. Now, if someone would only explain why we have so many versions of this story, and why the content has radically changed from the first version. The links to each version follow:

1 - Ex-Official: Evidence Distorted for War
2 - Questions Linger Over Iraq Weapons Claims
3 - Bush, Blair Face Heat Over Iraq Weapons