From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Wed Jun 11 2003 - 09:21:39 EDT
A follow-up on the June 5 post about the article from "The Guardian" by George Wright. Forwarded by an archives reader./ In solidarity, Jerry ------------------------------ A nasty slip on Iraqi oil The readers' editor on...the reasons why a report on the Guardian website was deleted Ian Mayes Saturday June 7, 2003 The Guardian On Wednesday, journalists on the Guardian's website were alerted to a story running in the German press, in which the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, was said to have admitted, in effect, that oil was the main reason for the war in Iraq. The German sources were found, translated, and at 4.30pm that day a story sourced to them was posted on the website under the heading, "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil". Mr Wolfowitz, in fact, had said nothing of the kind, as a deluge of email, most of it from the US, was quick to point out. Some of it registered disappointment more than anything else - disappointment that a valued source of news and liberal comment had in this instance let them down. "The briefest of searches will bring up articles to totally discredit your story," one complained. Many correspondents seized the opportunity the paper had provided to attack it. One wrote from Chicago: "Thousands of people all over the world read your paper's internet edition. It is a global journalistic presence and a global force...In the past year I have seen your paper abandon any pretext of objectivity and become little more than agitprop for the Bush-haters' club." Another called the report "part of what appears to be...an ongoing media campaign to discredit Jews in general and Mr Bush in particular". Here is one in the disappointed category: "You make it sound [as though Mr Wol fowitz] was saying the US had to go to war for economic reasons because it needed the Iraqi oil, when what he was really saying was that...economic sanctions and incentives didn't work with Iraq because of the oil revenue. "I'm no fan of the Bush administration - but this is blatant manipulation. If you want to condemn the Bushies there are sufficient facts...without inventing them. My trust in the integrity of your newspaper rests upon a prominent retraction in tomorrow's edition." By 4.30pm on Thursday, about 24 hours after it was posted, the report was deleted. A statement to that effect was posted prominently on the home page of the website. It was amended at about 5.30pm to take in more of the precise words of Mr Wolfowitz, which were available on the website of the US defence department. That statement remained on the home page of the Guardian website until about 6.30pm. At that time all the corrections that were published on the leader page of yesterday's print edition, with the Wolfowitz correction leading, were made available to the website, several hours earlier than usual. Unusual efforts were made not only to correct but to kill the story because it was wrong and by Thursday morning was attracting worldwide interest. There were telephone calls from media organisations in South Africa and New Zealand, for example, seeking to check it. It provided another example of the speed with which information (and misinformation), spreads through the internet. The paper has done its best to send a frank correction in pursuit and I repeat it here: "A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading 'Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil' misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, according to the department of defence website, 'The...difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq.' The sense was clearly that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The report appeared only on the website and has now been removed." That has not satisfied all the paper's critics. There is no total satisfaction in these situations. The story should not have run. In view of the significance of the statements attributed to Mr Wolfowitz, rigorous checking should have taken place. The hazard of translating remarks from German back into the English in which they were originally made should have been apparent. It concluded a week in which the Guardian apologised to the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, for locating him at a meeting he did not attend. It has not been the best of weeks.
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