Fog of the news cycle

We've all heard of the 'fog of war,' of being 'fogged—in' at an airfield, the State Department moniker of 'Foggy Bottom,' of waiting for the 'fog to lift,' of 'London fog,' of having one's glasses 'fog up,' or of being 'in a fog' when confused or uncertain. But now comes Philip Klein of the American Spectator who, having once—upon—a—time reported for the international news agency, enlightens us about the 'Fog of Reuters' that is, we are assured, the result of the blistering pace of the twenty—four hour news cycle and merciless deadlines that would make Ming of Flash Gordon fame proud:

As a wire service, Reuters imposes deadlines so tight that when I worked on the New York news desk, the publication time of our stories was measured down to the second. On any given day, the agency asks its journalists to churn out such a massive amount of news, information, and images that it's as if they were working on an assembly line.

While we were always told that accuracy was paramount (I know that's hard to believe now), I can attest to witnessing many highly qualified people make some of the most bone—headed errors you could imagine. There were times when I wrote stories in which I even got the day of the week wrong. As a colleague of mine once remarked, "There's no better place than Reuters to make you feel like a knucklehead." Reuters' policy requires reporters to issue a correction whenever an error is discovered, and a Google search of the terms "Reuters corrected" delivers more than 1 million hits, most of which have nothing to do with Israel.

Perhaps I am being naive, but given my knowledge of what goes on in a Reuters' Newsroom on a busy day, it is completely plausible to me that a photo editor would not have noticed that Hajj's photos were doctored.

Other factors influencing the editorial policies of Reuters we have heard before. From CNN perhaps? You know, the 'We must remain in the country if we are going to do our job and so we can't offend Fearless Leader' or the whomever—pulls—the—strings rationalization. Also, Reuterettes working in various foreign territories, those with sizeable and/or active terrorist groups that don't cotton to being referred to as 'terrorists,' would have their lives jeopardized if Reuters employed the use of this offending term. Hence, Reuters has purged the word from its lexicon. How convenient.

Whether or not Mr. Klein has been na´ve by judging the Reuters news service incompetent rather than culpable in its handling of the Hajj photos is of little import. What's most striking is that what he seems to support mere acquiescence to the imperatives of business. This is a nearly complete abandonment of what, most poeple used to consider the fundamental principle of journalism: getting the story right. If Disney acquired Reuters we could thus expect little to change.

There should be a disclaimer at the end of each wire story. It could include a copy of Mr. Klein's article. At least we would then be less inclined to put any faith whatsoever in what emanates from within the Reuters Fog.

Dennis Sevakis 08 11 06

We've all heard of the 'fog of war,' of being 'fogged—in' at an airfield, the State Department moniker of 'Foggy Bottom,' of waiting for the 'fog to lift,' of 'London fog,' of having one's glasses 'fog up,' or of being 'in a fog' when confused or uncertain. But now comes Philip Klein of the American Spectator who, having once—upon—a—time reported for the international news agency, enlightens us about the 'Fog of Reuters' that is, we are assured, the result of the blistering pace of the twenty—four hour news cycle and merciless deadlines that would make Ming of Flash Gordon fame proud:

As a wire service, Reuters imposes deadlines so tight that when I worked on the New York news desk, the publication time of our stories was measured down to the second. On any given day, the agency asks its journalists to churn out such a massive amount of news, information, and images that it's as if they were working on an assembly line.

While we were always told that accuracy was paramount (I know that's hard to believe now), I can attest to witnessing many highly qualified people make some of the most bone—headed errors you could imagine. There were times when I wrote stories in which I even got the day of the week wrong. As a colleague of mine once remarked, "There's no better place than Reuters to make you feel like a knucklehead." Reuters' policy requires reporters to issue a correction whenever an error is discovered, and a Google search of the terms "Reuters corrected" delivers more than 1 million hits, most of which have nothing to do with Israel.

Perhaps I am being naive, but given my knowledge of what goes on in a Reuters' Newsroom on a busy day, it is completely plausible to me that a photo editor would not have noticed that Hajj's photos were doctored.

Other factors influencing the editorial policies of Reuters we have heard before. From CNN perhaps? You know, the 'We must remain in the country if we are going to do our job and so we can't offend Fearless Leader' or the whomever—pulls—the—strings rationalization. Also, Reuterettes working in various foreign territories, those with sizeable and/or active terrorist groups that don't cotton to being referred to as 'terrorists,' would have their lives jeopardized if Reuters employed the use of this offending term. Hence, Reuters has purged the word from its lexicon. How convenient.

Whether or not Mr. Klein has been na´ve by judging the Reuters news service incompetent rather than culpable in its handling of the Hajj photos is of little import. What's most striking is that what he seems to support mere acquiescence to the imperatives of business. This is a nearly complete abandonment of what, most poeple used to consider the fundamental principle of journalism: getting the story right. If Disney acquired Reuters we could thus expect little to change.

There should be a disclaimer at the end of each wire story. It could include a copy of Mr. Klein's article. At least we would then be less inclined to put any faith whatsoever in what emanates from within the Reuters Fog.

Dennis Sevakis 08 11 06