Media Analysis - When Did Sources Become So Unimportant? - 04.15.2006

It’s increasingly interesting to me how the specific sources for stories are becoming less and less important and arbitrary statements are becoming more acceptable in the press.

In one example, the Los Angeles Times, which I’ve previously felt was doing a pretty fair job covering the conflict in Iraq, posted this story yesterday:

Sunni group demands action as body count surges in Iraq

In his third paragraph Mr. Daragahi states:

The facts remain sketchy and difficult to confirm, and the political groups making the claims previously exaggerated figures and accounts. Two ranking members of Iraq’s security forces said they knew nothing about the fresh reports of abductions and deaths.

But the accusations, broadcast over radio stations and posted on political Web sites, likely will further inflame tensions between Iraq’s Sunni minority and Shiite majority. The reports come as each group’s political leaders try to depict the other side as carrying out sectarian violence in an attempt to gain leverage in the country’s power struggle.

At this point, Mr. Daragahi has not named any of the “political groups” although, if his claims are accurate, it seems like it would be easy enough to name them, as they have been “broadcast over radio stations and posted on political Web sites.”

Later in the piece the writer mentions the Muslim Scholars Association, and appears to connect them with the statements, however the MSA is not a “political group” anymore than the American Friends Service Committee in the United States is a “political group.” My point, essentially, is that neither of these organizations are directly involved in the politics of their home countries.

Furthermore, he writes “Two ranking members of Iraq’s security forces”, without explaining any further details. Without these details, it becomes very difficult to understand what political agendas might be at play. The Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior both command “security forces” in Iraq, but have been increasingly at odds with each other.

Essentially, this section of the article works primarily not as an informative news piece, but as an ad hominem attack against Sunni groups who oppose the occupation and are speaking out against corruption and killings by the majority Shi’a government.

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In other news, I was informed by a friend this afternoon that apparently Tom Fox was carrying a Marines ID card with him at the time of his kidnapping. The card was old and reflected his past service, but apparently some now believe this is the reason his kidnappers executed him. If anyone has further information about this, please write me, or post a comment after this article.

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