Patterico Investigates the LA Times' Misreporting of an Incident at Ramadi

November 25th, 2006 1:12 AM

It started with this post at One Oar in the Water, comparing the LA Times' reporting of an incident at Ramadi to portions of a soldier's e-mail about the same incident.

Since it concerned a story allegedly seriously misreported by the Los Angeles Times, it seemed only logical for yours truly to ask Patterico, the blogosphere's designated LA Times fisker, to investigate further.

Thankfully, he did, and, as usual, he has done a splendid job. The LA Times' "Silent Solomon" Moore (you'll see why he gets the nickname from me when you read the post) does not come off looking good. Or maybe he should be called Solomon "Room Service" Moore.

There is no substitute for reading the whole thing, but here are Patterico's core findings:

  • "The soldier claimed that there were no airstrikes in Ramadi that day, while the L.A. Times stringer claimed there had been an airstrike. When I checked into it, the weight of the evidence indcated that the soldier was right and the L.A. Times was wrong."
  • "The soldier claimed that only insurgents were killed in the fighting, while the L.A. Times claimed that women and children were killed. Once again, the soldier’s claims appeared to be true, and the L.A. Times claim false."
  • "The soldier claimed: 'No houses were destroyed and only one courtyard wall was damaged'; by contrast, the L.A. Times stringer claimed that 'at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment.' There are no media reports with reliable firsthand accounts of pulverized homes."
  • "I can say this: the journalists at the L.A. Times 1) have utterly failed to report the full extent of the military’s side of the story; 2) very likely got some basic facts about the incident wrong; and 3) have done an extremely poor job of explaining the possible limitations on their knowledge — what I like to call 'telling the reader what you don’t know as well as what you do know.'"
  • "In addition, after talking with numerous sources who are knowledgeable about Iraq, I came away depressed about the poor quality of information we are getting out of that country. Embedded writers and bloggers like Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, Michael Fumento, and Bill Ardolino will continue to be absolutely critical to understanding what is going on in Iraq, and I encourage you to support embedded bloggers as much as possible."

Hear, hear, on that last point.

Another HUGE point included in Patterico's detail is emphasized by Allah at Hot Air, who excerpted this nugget:

"I learned something important about reporting from Iraq in general. Big Media journalists often rely on sources that are unreliable. They don’t tell you the pressures these sources might be under from insurgents and terrorists. They refuse to tell you who their stringers are, so we can assess their motivations. They get quotes from doctors who seem to see only civilian deaths. If the military has been given insufficient time to respond to an allegation, these journalists don’t check with the military later, to verify that the story they’ve written is accurate. And sometimes, as here, their stories are completely at odds with numerous other accounts reported in other press outlets — and they seem to have no interest in finding out why."

"It’s very sobering to realize that much of the news coming out of Iraq is completely unreliable. And it’s a bigger issue than whether the L.A. Times got a single story wrong on November 15."

Indeed, Patterico notes that "eyewitness" accounts that are seldom, if ever, questioned, need to be considered in light of the possible consequences to the "eyewitness" if he or she tells the truth. I don't recall a single reporter at any newspaper of wire service supposedly covering the situation in Iraq EVER questioning the credibility, or the ability to speak freely, of a single eyewitness to any alleged misbehavior by soldiers or errors (if they even exist) made by our military.

That this insight has to come from a blogger based in Los Angeles a full 3-1/2 years after hostilities began in Iraq is perhaps the ultimate testament to the truth of the Patterico's claim above that "much of the news coming out of Iraq is completely unreliable." It is truly frightening that such unreliable reporting, up to and including what is for all practical purposes verbatim repetition of enemy propaganda, appears to be shaping the debate in Washington over how to deal with the Iraq situation going forward.

Cross-posted at