Obviously, dear reader/listener, you know that this site and my show is about as far from the “mainstream/corporate media” as possible. So perhaps I give little-known news blogs the benefit of the doubt more often than I should – though I still believe we’re more likely to get the truth from intrepid reporters who hold no allegiance to corporate overlords.
That said, a dose of healthy skepticism is also a good thing to hold on to – regardless of who is telling the story.
Last month, as we were trying to figure out what had actually happened in Syria after videos surfaced showing what appeared to be people suffering and dying after a chemical weapons attack.
As the US was giving information based on circumstantial evidence and “common sense” without many details, Russian media sources were pointing toward the rebels. I was made aware of a story on Minnesota-based MintPress News, a website I had not previously heard of.
The story, “EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack“, seemed feasible and, according to the site, was co-written by Dale Gavlak – a credible journalist with many pieces published by the AP and other regarded institutions to her credit.
I tried to contact both Ms. Gavlak and the other reporter credited with the piece, Yahya Ababneh, described as a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism, He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere, but to no avail.
I also reached out to Mnar Muhawesh, executive director and editor at large for MintPress News – the woman who runs the site, and we exchanged a few emails. After getting no response from either reporter credited on the story, I asked Ms. Muhawesh if she’d join me on the air. After agreeing, she then suggested we put it off until after a follow-up story was published:
I think then it would better to do the interview after the follow up report as it will hopefully answer a lot of questions readers have about the article. Let’s hold off until next week.Once we get that report later this week, then we’ll schedule an interview for next week, and that way Yahya will hopefully be available to answer more questions. I’ll keep your interview as high priority.Best regards,Mnar Muhawesh
Editor in Chief
Mint Press News
Ouch! The piece goes on to say that Dale Gavlak was merely helping her colleague to translate his work and write up his piece, but that her name was never to have been attached to it, as she was never on the ground in Syria, and didn’t do any of the reporting.
One former MintPress contributor who was the person who alerted me to the story, Steve Horn, was mentioned in that NY Times piece:
The dispute over the article has caused even some contributors to MintPress to ask questions about its mission and how it is financed. Steve Horn, an investigative reporter based in Madison, Wis., said in an e-mail that he has decided to cut ties to the news site as a result of Ms. Gavlak’s objections to how her name was used. “I departed because I feel I was misled about the credibility of the article — which I trusted largely because Dale’s name was on it — and because of that, I no longer feel it’s a credible outlet. Frankly, I’m not sure it ever was.”
Steve joined me on the show this morning to talk about the story, and the story surrounding the story, which raises even more questions than it answers…
Another tale of questionable journalistic responsibility and ethics surrounds the American media who lately has been shirking its duties as disseminators of truth and reliable information.
One morning last week, NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd appeared on MSNBC’s morning show, Morning Joe, in a discussion about the Affordable Care Act. Responding to a flawed poll that found a majority of Americans opposed to the law, former PA Governor Ed Rendell bemoaned the fact that most people weren’t aware of its benefits as all they knew of it were the lies coming from the right.
Chuck Todd responded with the old “it’s not my job” nonsense, saying that it’s the President’s job to sell his program.
While that might be technically true, what he was doing was denying that it was his responsibility as a member of the Fourth Estate to inform the public of what is fact and when our elected officials are lying to us.
So Nicole Belle wrote an open letter to the president of NBC News about this problem in general and, more specifically, the fact that Chuck Todd refuse(s) to be responsible to provide facts to your viewership.
The post was quickly turned into an online petition- TELL NBC NEWS: CORRECTING REPUBLICAN LIES IS PART OF YOUR JOB – via Credo Mobilization and, at the time of this writing, has garnered over 82,000 signatures.
Of course, there are always alarming examples of journalistic misconduct during our Monday morning “Fools on the Hill” segment with Nicole Belle. This morning, here’s what she brought us:
I started a bit of an internet sensation by creating a petition based on Chuck Todd’s comments on Morning Joe this week, in which he said it was the WH’s job to sell ACA, not the media’s. Well, we all know that is a strawman. No one is expecting journalists to sell a government program, but if they spend all their time focusing on the messaging without contextualizing that messaging coming from one side is rife with disinformation and most Americans say they don’t know what ACA is, then journalists have to accept responsibility that they are de facto selling the other side.
I had a lot of establishment journalists condemning me and defending Chuck Todd, which is to be expected. People take umbrage when you point out that they don’t understand the basic parameters of their job. They don’t call out lies, they don’t point out maneuvering for partisan games. And in this way, they shape the debate, without thinking that there are people affected mightily by these programs and that these are not just political gamesmanship to do play-by-play on.
So Ted Cruz—who is making the Republican leadership very, very uncomfortable—informs Chris Wallace that he is so committed to defunding Obamacare that he’s willing toshut down the military to do it
But here’s where it gets interesting. Chris Wallace tells his viewers that he got oppo research on Ted Cruz…from Republicans. And based on this clip, it looks like Karl Rove had his hand in it. The establishment Republicans really are afraid that Cruz’s particular brand of crazy will ensure a marginalized party.
Sarah Palin, still trying to hold onto her relevancy, but failing pretty miserably. She wants to know who is going after Ted Cruz, calling them cannibals.
One of the things that make liberals so frustrated by President Obama is his over-arching need to compromise again and again with Republicans. But don’t tell Newt Gingrich, who pretends that Obama never compromises. And note no one calls him on this crazy talk. That’s American journalism for you.
But because I want to be fair and because I think it’s important to support reporters when they’re doing things right, listen to Bob Schieffer chastise Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to return to the land of what’s real.
And Jonathan Alter, who cautions Alex Witt that MSNBC should not fall in the trap of reciting poll numbers on ACA approval without remembering that many people disapprove of ACA because they want it to be more liberal, not get rid of it.