Saturday, June 05, 2010

The lying liars at the Star Tribune

A few days ago the Star Tribune ran an AP story - presumably first published by the New York Times - on the Gazilla Massacre in the Mediterranean. The story contained a blatant lie about Hamas - claiming that the political group took over Gaza violently by force. As the media watchdog FAIR noted, Hamas had to take over by force only after they won legitimate elections in 2006, after which the US and Israel stoked a civil war between rival Fatah and Hamas, in which Hamas prevailed.

After getting a complaint from FAIR, the New York Times issued a correction:
An article on Tuesday about the deadly Israeli naval commando raid on an aid flotilla that had attempted to defy Israel's blockade of Gaza referred incompletely to the governance of Gaza by Hamas, the militant group that opposes Israel’s existence. While Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007, as the article said, the group’s representatives had won elections there in January 2006, defeating the more moderate rival Palestinian group Fatah. Subsequent tensions between Hamas and Fatah forces in Gaza led to open fighting, and Hamas routed Fatah from Gaza in June 2007.
This is not just some trivial detail in a small story. Outside the Gulf of Mexico it was the biggest story in the world. And it makes a world of difference whether those ruling a state are winners of legitimate democratic elections or whether they have taken power violently.

When the AP story first ran in the Strib I immediately tried to get them to correct the error - I emailed editors several times, and called and left messages for them. Eventually, three or four days later, I got an email back from an editor asking for more information, which I provided. This editor, who I am not naming because I believe the problem at the paper is systemic and not due to him, essentially replied to me that editors don't even look at AP stories, they just decide whether or not to publish them.

When I asked for a correction, this editor replied that if there was a problem with the story I should contact AP, and that essentially the newspaper was not responsible for AP content it published. That's a pretty odd attitude from professional journalists - not caring about the veracity of what it publishes - but that is what the Strib has become.

I've argued before that the Star Tribune is becoming an impregnable fount of false narratives that panders to right wing authoritarians. This present case is anything  but an anomaly. When informed of its mistake, the New York Times admitted its error, and ran a correction, but the Star Tribune, when informed of the gross error, merely yawned and moved on.

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