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Friday, April 08, 2005

There's More to Schiavo Memo Story To Be Told, But Only The Post, Harkin can do it

And when the telling comes, it should be by a minimum of four people, including three at The Washington Post, and one member of the U.S. Senate, Tom Harkin, D-IA. Let's take them in sequence, as expertly assessed by Powerline's Hindrocket:

"Notwithstanding the revelation of the memo's source, some of the most important questions about this story remain unanswered. Foremost among them is, what led the Post to report, on March 19, that the memo was written by "Republican officials" and "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders”?
"Was the Post misinformed about the memo's origin and significance, either by Senator Harkin or by someone else? Or did the newspaper's reporters see the memo and simply leap to the conclusion that it was a statement of policy authored by the Republican leadership and distributed to the Republican Senate caucus?
"The former seems more likely, but Mike Allen, the Post's principal reporter, has not responded to our request to clarify the source of the error in the paper's original report."

You can read the full Powerline post here. While you are away, also check out RedState's "Idiot Extraordinair" posting by Eric Erickson here.

Okay, at the Post, we need to hear more from reporters Mike Allen and Manuel Roig Franzia, and whoever on the Post copy desk pushed the button to publish the March 19 version of the story asserting that the Schiavo memo was being circulated by GOP officials. Who were the sources for the story's basic assertion that the memo represented official GOP thinking and was being circulated by GOP officials as such to GOP senators? It is one thing to identify the author of the memo but that is not necessarily the same as the journalists' source of the memo and all of the information they were told about it.

If Allen and Franzia depended upon Martinez staffer Darling, a very senior editor needs to sit down with them and explain that junior Senate staffers often have an inflated view of their knowledge and importance [I know, I was one once] and for that reason you must always independently verify what they claim. Otherwise, they will have you reporting as fact mere gossip, uninformed speculation, malicious innuendo and purposeful hyperbole. You know, the disreputable kinds of stuff MSMers claim dominates the Blogosphere.

If the source was a Democrat senator or staffer, then surely an experienced reporter like Allen or Franzia would have automatically sought independent confirmation from another source; otherwise, he would be making the Post a conduit for Democratic talking points. That is unthinkable because we all know how the Post assidously avoids allowing itself to be used by anybody in the Washington Establishment to send messages. Don't we?

Then there is the Post copy desk editor who gave the March 19 story its final edit and pushed the button. Did that editor at least ask Allen or Franzia about the sourcing for the key element of the story? If they responded, what about their satisfied you that their characterization of the memo was accurate?

If you didn't ask, why even have a copy desk except to make sure the names are properly spelled? We are, after all, talking about a pillar of the MSM, which, as we are repeatedly told by MSMers, has layers of editors back-stopping reporters and insuring only factual stuff is reported. Unlike those bloggers at home in their pajamas.

Finally, what about Sen. Harkin? Where has he been since this flap began? Since he claims to have direct knowledge of the memo's link to him, what else does he know about how the memo came to be? Did Martinez really say something to the effect that "this is talking points" on the issue? If it is Harkin's word versus Martinez's word, who are we to believe and why? Most importantly, why did he remain silent as the MSM circulated a story he knew to be patently false? Surely, his silence was not merely for partisan political advantage, was it?

It appears to this ink-stained wretch of the MSM that the most important issue raised by the Post reporting of the Schiavo memo has nothing at all to do with that poor women's fate or how it was dealt with by Washington politicans of either party. The important issue is this - Was the March 19 story a mere anomaly in the Post newsroom or an indicator of a broken editing process?