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August 07, 2007

Not Just TNR: WaPo Doesn't Fact-Check Easily Fact-Checked "Fact;" Still Refuses To Correct

This story, by Jose Antonio Vargas, claimed:

Build a liberal site such as Daily Kos, as the Persian Gulf War veteran and former Republican Markos "Kos" Moulitsas Zuniga did five years ago, and bloggers either join the discussion or not.

This is not true. As I related yesterday, his own bio states he spent nearly the entirety of his hitch in Bamberg, Germany. In an article about himself for TAP, he wrote:

Eight weeks later, I emerged a brand new person, this one weighing 140 pounds. And after my three-year stint, while I was stationed in Germany and missed deploying to the Gulf War by a hair, I emerged as a Democrat.

Why did Jose Antionio Vargas write that Kos was a "Persian Gulf War veteran"? Well, probably because Kos tends to say things like "I wore combat boots. I served during the Gulf War," as he stated on Howie Kurtz's Reliable Sources on CNN. Those statements are technically true, but seem calculated to create a very large misimpression in the public's mind about precisely what Kos was doing during the Gulf War. Curiously, he doesn't say "I wore combat boots. I served in period of complete peace during the East-West German reintegration," or the like.

Now, this was all easily fact-checked before the piece went out. However, it was not fact-checked. Kos' likely statement "I served during the Gulf War" was simply changed to him being a "Gulf War veteran," without the reporter ever searching for thirty seconds (it's alll it took me, and I suck) on Google to see if this was accurate.

Worst than that, the story remains uncorrected. And I have contacted the WaPo about it, citing them chapter and verse the documentation proving their error.

Who have I written? Well let's see:

1) Jose Antiono Vargas, the author, himself.

2) The Post's editors, through their letters to the editor address,

and, fearing they may have missed the latter,

3) to the Post's own media critic Howie Kurtz, through an intermediary he knows and frequently has on as a guest and whose email, therefore, he would presumably bother to read.

So the Washington Post has been informed three different ways to three different parties who would be interested in the accuracy of their story -- author, editors, in-house media critic -- and has of yet not corrected the story.

The only correction they've provided is for a silly misspelling of a blogger's name -- the sort of correction papers like to make, as they're so trivial, and thus credit them as good about making corrections while costing them nothing at all. It's the larger errors they shy away from correcting -- at best, they offer a later "walk-back" which states the facts correctly without ever acknowledging their previous report was in error.

If it is now the Washington Post's explicit style guidance that a man merely serving during a war is in fact a veteran of that war, then I expect them, in accordance with this odd new ruling, to begin referring to President Bush as a "Vietnam veteran."

He served, after all, during the war. In Texas, sure, but Bamberg, Germany is no more within striking distance of Iraq than Texas is to Vietnam. a

And, like Kos, he could have been called to serve in Vietnam at any time; apparently that's enough to make one a "veteran" of a war.

I trust, having made this decision regarding Kos, the Washington Post will now go through eight years of articles about Bush and correct each one of those, elevating him to the status of "Vietnam vet."

The dirty little secret isn't such a secret, and it's not so little: The MSM simply does not fact-check, except to the most trivial degree, and even when obvious errors are pointed out to them, they refuse to correct them.

Because the act of correcting so many large errors would be a tacit admission of that which they dare not confess: They simply do not bother checking their facts beyond the absurd "smells good" standard.

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posted by Ace at 02:51 PM

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