Much is written about the New York Times’s increasing lack of journalistic standards and fairness. But to my mind, Newsweek is as culpable. Take the recent expose “That Night at Duke” that in workmanlike fashion reconstructs the frame-up of the lacrosse players.
The problem here is that one of the worst culprits of last year’s rush-to-judgment lynch mob was Newsweek itself in its May 1, 2006 headline cover story “Sex, Lies, and Duke” with photos of the falsely accused splashed across the cover. Most saw that lurid spread, as Newsweek well knew they would, without reading the story inside, and came away with the images of these young men as rapists or worse. There was no need for the pictures of the accused on the cover, especially when the story inside did not substantiate the lurid attention given them.
Now we have the Newsweek self-righteous story of Imus’s deserved fall by Weston Kosova that details the bully’s serial obnoxiousness. But of course, Newsweek’s top reporters were frequent guests, as noted in the story, who calculated that the publicity gained for their current books was worth ignoring the Imus racial banter. And as bad as Imus’s racist recklessness was, no one so far has died–unlike the consequences of riot and rampage from Newsweek’s bogus accusation that guards had flushed a Koran down a Guantanamo Bay cell toilet. That lie appeared in the hip “Periscope” section, a fluffy feature that is now the journalistic equivalent of the shock-jock tossed asides.
We don’t expect Newsweek apologies, but it never seems to stop and reexamine its methodology, instead always confident that as it barrels ahead recklessly it can always, issues later, look back at the damage it does, and matter-of-factly note that Newsweek once wrote a story or published an account in the past…, as the reader is left to conclude that it shouldn’t have.