Thursday, May 07, 2009

Raleigh N&O's Interrogation Memo Propaganda

The May 6 front page of McClatchy’s liberal/leftist Raleigh News & Observer headlines a story:

Interrogation memo authors unlikely to be charged

But report suggests professional sanctions against trio of Bush lawyers
The N&O’s story runs under the bylines of NY Times reporters David Johnson and Scott Shane with attribution to the NY Times.

I did a paragraph-by-paragraph check of the N&O’s print story (not available at with the NYT’s story online. They match paragraph-for-paragraph except the N&O’s story has this added paragraph:
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity. Several other news sources reported the details of the inquiry, also citing anonymous sources, ncluding The Associated Press and CNN.
The N&O/NYT story begins:
An internal Justice Department inquiry has concluded that Bush administration lawyers committed serious lapses of judgment in writing secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations but that they should not be prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on its findings.

The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask state bar associations to consider possible disciplinary action, which could include reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions, the officials said.

The conclusions of the 220-page draft report are not final and have not yet been approved by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. The officials said that it is possible that the final report might be subject to further revision but that they did not expect major alterations in its main findings or recommendations. ...
The rest of the N&O/NYT story’s here.

Nowhere in the almost 900-word story the N&O ran does it tell readers something the AP told its readers:
The inquiry has become a politically-loaded guessing game, with some advocating criminal charges against the lawyers, and others urging the matter be dropped.
The N&O certainly could have.

All it had to do was attribute its story to both the NYT & AP and write a few words of introduction for the AP part of its story. Newspapers do that kind of thing all the time when editors are so inclined.

But if N&O editors had told their readers “others [are] urging the matter be dropped,” that information would have weakened the story’s political propaganda value.

The N&O’s story includes this:
Several legal scholars have remarked that in approving waterboarding, the near-drowning method Mr. Obama and his aides have described as torture, the Justice Department lawyers did not cite cases in which the United States government previously prosecuted American law enforcement officials and Japanese World War II interrogators for using the procedure.
But it doesn’t include any mention of the many legal scholars who say comparisons to what the Japanese did in WW II are not valid and who’ve criticized Democrats and news organizations for what they see as playing politics with America’s national security.

There are other examples I could cite in the N&O story that make it political propaganda but I think you see what I’m saying.

If you’d like to do some comparing of your own to see how the three news orgs handled the same story, here are the NYT’s, the AP’s and CNN’s.

Final word: Some people might insist the story wasn’t the N&O’s but the NYT’s. That’s not the case. While the story originated with the NYT as soon as the N&O editors put it in their paper, the N&O “owned” what they put there.

That’s why the N&O was able to literally sell that story and the rest of the May 6 paper to its readers, many of whom didn’t know that part of what they were buying was front page political propaganda.


Anonymous said...


If the story is word for word what was in the NY Times, and if the N&O did not credit the Times as the source for the article, isn't the N&O guilty of plagiarism?

Anonymous said...

not if Linda Williams said it was ok...
there are 'different expectations' of such people

Anonymous said...

plagiarism is plagiarism ...
guess all depends on which editor approved the plagiarism

Anonymous said...


From John's post: "The N&O’s story runs under the bylines of NY Times reporters David Johnson and Scott Shane with attribution to the NY Times."

Anonymous said...


Thanks - I read too quickly while multi-tasking. Therefore, my apologies to the N&O.

Anonymous said...

When will the N&O apologize for casting the lacrosse players in a false light?