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October 19, 2006

When 'Voices of Victims' Stand in for Fact-Checking

Chaalan.ambulance hoax.jpg
A LA Times photo of medic Qasim Chaalan, protagonist in the Red Cross ambulance incident

Editor & Publisher has an admiring feature of Los Angeles Times Cairo bureau chief Megan Stack, who reported from Lebanon over the summer during Israel's war with Hezbollah. Sarah Weber, of Editor & Publisher, has clearly not done her homework. About Stack's coverage, she reports:

L.A. Times readers learned of the chaotic and deadly toll the Israeli strikes took on Lebanon through the stories of battle-shaken ambulance drivers, the weak and elderly who were left behind to withstand the bombardments, and an asylum that was abandoned by the doctors, leaving 250 patients in the care of a few nurses with limited medication. In each report, Stack utilized the voices of the victims to paint a picture of the events she was witnessing.

But Stack did not witness the alleged Israeli missile attack on the Red Cross ambulance on July 24. She covered the purported attack in her July 25 article "Israeli Missiles Rip Into Medics' Esprit de Corps," relying heavily on the testimony of medic Qasim Chaalan.

As has been expertly exposed by the blog ZombieTime, the entire ambulance attack is likely a fraud. The critical tip-offs were sequences of photographs revealing Chaalan's miraculous recovery as well as photographs showing the damage to the vehicle as wholly inconsistent with a recent missile attack.

Reflecting on her role as reporter in the Lebanon conflict, Stack tells Editor & Publisher:

"there is a sense that the details are important, that Americans had an urgent need to know about the war and how it was being fought. What does it look like, feel like? What is the human cost of another day, another week of fighting?"

Yes, details (not to mention the big picture) are important, which is why Stack would be better off relying on investigative reporting as opposed to "the voices of the victims."

Send feedback to letters@editorandpublisher.com .

Posted by TS at October 19, 2006 06:42 AM

Comments

It is absurd for any self-respecting journalist to condone reliance on "voices of the victims" without responsible fact-checking. Frankly, E&P looks rather stupid for being sucked into this charade.

Posted by: Linda Feinstein at October 27, 2006 01:36 PM

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