Truth in adverising and the NYT

By

Readers of the metro edition of the print Gray Lady found tucked into their papers this morning an additional 24—page section, in broadsheet size, printed in full color, and devoted to promoting the proposition to readers that, 'These Times Demand The Times.'

The object of this remarkable encomium to itself — and they promise more of such 'in the months ahead' — appears to be to allay readers' growing dismay at the continuing decline in the Times's objectivity, quality, and accuracy. The special section reassures am outstanding breadth of coverage for events near and far, a mightily talented staff, and the most interesting and intelligent views from op—ed and other opinion columnists.

Here is a photo of Jerusalem Bureau Chief Steven Erlanger taking notes in the old section of that city. Surely the massive criticism of his one—sided reporting on Israel and her enemies is just partisan bickering.

And here is Sabrina Tavernise, in full battle dress, reporting from an Iraqi location 'close to the Syrian border.' Surely this eager foreign correspondent is sending back a true first—hand account of the US Army's bungling failures as they carry out the Bush administration's misguided policies in that war—torn land.

Turn the pages to find more and more glorification of the 'Newspaper of Record' and the outstanding men and women who do the recording. One wonders why such elaborate reassurances are needed to the very readers who should be able to perceive all this themselves in the daily editions. But, wait. On page 9 comes a subtly revealing statement.

'There are spam filters. And there are content filters. At The Times, reporters and editors have built—in accuracy filters.'

That's just the problem — they don't, and Times readers are becoming more and more aware of the shockingly inaccurate reporting purveyed, including but not limited to misstatements, misinterpretations, omissions, and downright propagandizing masquerading as objective new reports.

Ironically, the supplement section appears the very day (although the same could apply to any number of other days) in which the Times demonstrates most obviously how it twists its reporting far out of shape. Two major stories provide the grist for the twist.

Let's consider first the release of a report by a Canadian government commission regarding the case of Maher Arar, traveling on a Canadian passport, who was apprehended in transit at a US airport and, after advice  and information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to our FBI, was deported to his native Syria.

The report comes after a lengthy investigation caused by much political rancor generated among Canadians because of the deportation of one of their citizens to the land of his birth, where he was allegedly tortured although eventually cleared of wrongdoing and returned to Canada.

Here is a direct quote from the Canadian commission's report. The report itself runs to many hundreds of pages, but the most salient paragraph is

Analysis and Recommendations

Report of the Events

Relating to Maher Arar 

page 144

Taken together, these inaccurate pieces of information paint a suspicious and potentially inflammatory picture of someone who refused to be interviewed, probably because he had something to hide, and who quickly pulled up stakes, leaving Canada in order to avoid further investigation. In the eyes of law enforcement officers such as the FBI agents, this misleading picture could raise suspicions that Mr. Arar was involved in illegal activities, probably terrorism related, that were serious enough to cause him to flee the country where he and his family had lived for many years. It is worth noting that the Canadian and American investigators already believed that two of the primary targets had fled Canada in response to investigative activity. The way Project A—O Canada portrayed Mr. Arar's departure from Canada suggested a similar pattern of behaviour. The problem, of course, is that this was unfair to Mr. Arar, who was not a target, had not refused an interview and had not left Canada suddenly.

The exoneration of the United States seemed the most important factor in the commission's findings — at least to the Wall Street Journal, which ran this AP dispatch on its Web site, headline presumably written by the WSJ staff:

Canadian Inquiry Clears Terror Suspect

Associated Press

September 19, 2006 3:46 a.m.

TORONTO —— A government commission said Canadian police inaccurately informed U.S. authorities an Ottawa man was an Islamic extremist suspected of links to al Qaeda —— likely leading to his deportation to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

The New York Sun, likewise emphasized the exoneration of the US officials, who had acted reasonably based on what they thought was accurate information provided them by the RCMP indicating that Arar was a likely terrorist. The Sun ran an AP dispatch on page 6 of this morning's edition, with the headline shown:

Inquiry Finds Canadians Misled U.S. In Deportation of Detainee to Syria

 

By ROB GILLIES — Associated Press

September 19, 2006

TORONTO — An inquiry into the American transfer of a Canadian citizen to prison in Syria found Canadian authorities gave misleading information to the Americans that likely led to the deportation, a report released yesterday said.

Not the New York Times, which found it irresistible to take another poke at the Bush administration and the efforts to combat terrorism and keep our borders secure. The Times's editors felt it appropriate to assign one of their own staff reporters to give the story a suitable slant, a headline writer to misstate the facts of what happened, and a position as its front page lead article:

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case

By IAN AUSTEN

OTTAWA, Sept. 18 — A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

The report on the engineer, Maher Arar, said American officials had apparently acted on inaccurate information from Canadian investigators and then misled Canadian authorities about their plans for Mr. Arar before transporting him to Syria.

The other big story of the day on which the Times had its own peculiar attitude was the reneging by France of its solidarity with the US, Russia, and China regarding terms for dealing with Iran over its nuclear program. France, once again, stabbed America in the back with a surprise last—minute move by Chirac on the eve of a scheduled Security Council meeting on the subject, where a unanimity of approach had been agreed to by the four countries involved.

The New York Sun realized that this was sufficiently important news to assign its UN reporter to write a 2—column article and run it in the lead space of its front page:

Chirac Threatens a Separate Peace With Iran Regime

BY BENNY AVNI — Staff Reporter of the Sun

UNITED NATIONS — Ahead of what is now certain to be a contentious meeting with President Bush today, President Chirac of France reneged on his previous support for a united international approach to halting Iran's nuclear program.

In two interviews on the eve of his trip to Turtle Bay to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Chirac threatened to restart negotiations with Iran. His comments called into question the united position of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, whose foreign ministers had said that unless Iran suspended enrichment by the end of August, the council would consider punitive measures.

The Times, however, didn't see much importance in this development and relegated note of it to page A14, where it was yawned off by Elaine Sciolino, often considered to have been on the beat so long that, like Stockholm Syndromers, she's become a thoroughgoing Europhile.

Iran's Freeze on Enrichment Could Wait, France Suggests

By ELAINE SCIOLINO

PARIS, Sept. 18 — In an effort to jump—start formal negotiations between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, President Jacques Chirac of France suggested Monday that Iran would not have to freeze major nuclear activities until the talks began.

Over the years, Mr. Chirac has consistently taken an extremely hard line against Iran both in public and private. But his remarks in a radio interview could be interpreted as a concession to Iran, whose officials have said they will not suspend their production of enriched uranium as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.

In light of the Times' distorted treatment of these two news stories in just a single day (follow the leads to the full texts for a more thorough way to compare and contrast its handling with those of more credible newspapers), the need for an elaborate advertising campaign to persuade its own customers of its worth does seem both logical and necessary.R

Richard N. Weltz   9 19 06

Readers of the metro edition of the print Gray Lady found tucked into their papers this morning an additional 24—page section, in broadsheet size, printed in full color, and devoted to promoting the proposition to readers that, 'These Times Demand The Times.'

The object of this remarkable encomium to itself — and they promise more of such 'in the months ahead' — appears to be to allay readers' growing dismay at the continuing decline in the Times's objectivity, quality, and accuracy. The special section reassures am outstanding breadth of coverage for events near and far, a mightily talented staff, and the most interesting and intelligent views from op—ed and other opinion columnists.

Here is a photo of Jerusalem Bureau Chief Steven Erlanger taking notes in the old section of that city. Surely the massive criticism of his one—sided reporting on Israel and her enemies is just partisan bickering.

And here is Sabrina Tavernise, in full battle dress, reporting from an Iraqi location 'close to the Syrian border.' Surely this eager foreign correspondent is sending back a true first—hand account of the US Army's bungling failures as they carry out the Bush administration's misguided policies in that war—torn land.

Turn the pages to find more and more glorification of the 'Newspaper of Record' and the outstanding men and women who do the recording. One wonders why such elaborate reassurances are needed to the very readers who should be able to perceive all this themselves in the daily editions. But, wait. On page 9 comes a subtly revealing statement.

'There are spam filters. And there are content filters. At The Times, reporters and editors have built—in accuracy filters.'

That's just the problem — they don't, and Times readers are becoming more and more aware of the shockingly inaccurate reporting purveyed, including but not limited to misstatements, misinterpretations, omissions, and downright propagandizing masquerading as objective new reports.

Ironically, the supplement section appears the very day (although the same could apply to any number of other days) in which the Times demonstrates most obviously how it twists its reporting far out of shape. Two major stories provide the grist for the twist.

Let's consider first the release of a report by a Canadian government commission regarding the case of Maher Arar, traveling on a Canadian passport, who was apprehended in transit at a US airport and, after advice  and information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to our FBI, was deported to his native Syria.

The report comes after a lengthy investigation caused by much political rancor generated among Canadians because of the deportation of one of their citizens to the land of his birth, where he was allegedly tortured although eventually cleared of wrongdoing and returned to Canada.

Here is a direct quote from the Canadian commission's report. The report itself runs to many hundreds of pages, but the most salient paragraph is

Analysis and Recommendations

Report of the Events

Relating to Maher Arar 

page 144

Taken together, these inaccurate pieces of information paint a suspicious and potentially inflammatory picture of someone who refused to be interviewed, probably because he had something to hide, and who quickly pulled up stakes, leaving Canada in order to avoid further investigation. In the eyes of law enforcement officers such as the FBI agents, this misleading picture could raise suspicions that Mr. Arar was involved in illegal activities, probably terrorism related, that were serious enough to cause him to flee the country where he and his family had lived for many years. It is worth noting that the Canadian and American investigators already believed that two of the primary targets had fled Canada in response to investigative activity. The way Project A—O Canada portrayed Mr. Arar's departure from Canada suggested a similar pattern of behaviour. The problem, of course, is that this was unfair to Mr. Arar, who was not a target, had not refused an interview and had not left Canada suddenly.

The exoneration of the United States seemed the most important factor in the commission's findings — at least to the Wall Street Journal, which ran this AP dispatch on its Web site, headline presumably written by the WSJ staff:

Canadian Inquiry Clears Terror Suspect

Associated Press

September 19, 2006 3:46 a.m.

TORONTO —— A government commission said Canadian police inaccurately informed U.S. authorities an Ottawa man was an Islamic extremist suspected of links to al Qaeda —— likely leading to his deportation to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

The New York Sun, likewise emphasized the exoneration of the US officials, who had acted reasonably based on what they thought was accurate information provided them by the RCMP indicating that Arar was a likely terrorist. The Sun ran an AP dispatch on page 6 of this morning's edition, with the headline shown:

Inquiry Finds Canadians Misled U.S. In Deportation of Detainee to Syria

 

By ROB GILLIES — Associated Press

September 19, 2006

TORONTO — An inquiry into the American transfer of a Canadian citizen to prison in Syria found Canadian authorities gave misleading information to the Americans that likely led to the deportation, a report released yesterday said.

Not the New York Times, which found it irresistible to take another poke at the Bush administration and the efforts to combat terrorism and keep our borders secure. The Times's editors felt it appropriate to assign one of their own staff reporters to give the story a suitable slant, a headline writer to misstate the facts of what happened, and a position as its front page lead article:

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case

By IAN AUSTEN

OTTAWA, Sept. 18 — A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

The report on the engineer, Maher Arar, said American officials had apparently acted on inaccurate information from Canadian investigators and then misled Canadian authorities about their plans for Mr. Arar before transporting him to Syria.

The other big story of the day on which the Times had its own peculiar attitude was the reneging by France of its solidarity with the US, Russia, and China regarding terms for dealing with Iran over its nuclear program. France, once again, stabbed America in the back with a surprise last—minute move by Chirac on the eve of a scheduled Security Council meeting on the subject, where a unanimity of approach had been agreed to by the four countries involved.

The New York Sun realized that this was sufficiently important news to assign its UN reporter to write a 2—column article and run it in the lead space of its front page:

Chirac Threatens a Separate Peace With Iran Regime

BY BENNY AVNI — Staff Reporter of the Sun

UNITED NATIONS — Ahead of what is now certain to be a contentious meeting with President Bush today, President Chirac of France reneged on his previous support for a united international approach to halting Iran's nuclear program.

In two interviews on the eve of his trip to Turtle Bay to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Chirac threatened to restart negotiations with Iran. His comments called into question the united position of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, whose foreign ministers had said that unless Iran suspended enrichment by the end of August, the council would consider punitive measures.

The Times, however, didn't see much importance in this development and relegated note of it to page A14, where it was yawned off by Elaine Sciolino, often considered to have been on the beat so long that, like Stockholm Syndromers, she's become a thoroughgoing Europhile.

Iran's Freeze on Enrichment Could Wait, France Suggests

By ELAINE SCIOLINO

PARIS, Sept. 18 — In an effort to jump—start formal negotiations between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, President Jacques Chirac of France suggested Monday that Iran would not have to freeze major nuclear activities until the talks began.

Over the years, Mr. Chirac has consistently taken an extremely hard line against Iran both in public and private. But his remarks in a radio interview could be interpreted as a concession to Iran, whose officials have said they will not suspend their production of enriched uranium as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.

In light of the Times' distorted treatment of these two news stories in just a single day (follow the leads to the full texts for a more thorough way to compare and contrast its handling with those of more credible newspapers), the need for an elaborate advertising campaign to persuade its own customers of its worth does seem both logical and necessary.R

Richard N. Weltz   9 19 06