Caveat Emptor?

Vaughn Ververs has a piece up at CBS Public Eye which is pretty interesting. In it he takes a look at the increasingly unreliable news coming from what he and others refer to as the “new media.”

Although he does not restrict himself to “new” media, I don’t think. He mentions that the world of big-time-official journalism is still trying to figure out what is true or what is false in USA Today’s recent story about phone records and the NSA. Hopefully he means they’re still trying to figure out the truth and not merely how to frame it, but that’s another issue, and I’m just being persnickity because I feel like it, and Vaughn is smart enough never to take it personally.

Touching on the murky “Is or ain’t Iran going to target Jews and Christians by dress” story Vaughn writes: Last week’s report from the National Post’s Web site about a supposed Iranian law that would require Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims in that country to wear identifying “badges” was just the latest example of a story that sped around the world before being verified in any meaningful way….Here’s how the AP cleared things up over the weekend:

A copy of the draft law obtained by The Associated Press made no mention of religious minorities or any requirement of special attire for them, and the Post later posted an article on its Web site backing off the report.

Instead, the draft law is aimed at encouraging more traditional dress among Muslims, particularly women. An attempt at reigning in some of the more liberal, Western-leaning changes in Iran’s society is newsworthy in and of itself. But it’s not quite the rise of some Fourth Reich that it seemed for a time in the wake of the initial story.

Maybe we’ll have to put that one in the wait-and-see pile…when one reads this from Amir Taheri, who writes: The law mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear “standard Islamic garments” designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate “the influence of the infidel” on the way Iranians, especially, the young dress.

Okay, maybe I’m thick, but if “all Iranians” are to wear these “standard Islamic garments” and if “standard Islamic garments” include garments of specific colors, stripes or markings for non-Islamists Iranians (this piece does not say it doesn’t) then is it not possible that maybe, just maybe, the story is not completely false? Just because a document “makes no mention” of something doesn’t mean a thing is not – under a definition of “standard” – implied. Why would a press that believes nothing from the mouth of the US Government simply take the Iranian government at it’s word? I’m just asking. The thing still seems nebulous – I am dissuaded by the quick assurance of the AP that all the Iranians mean is a rejection of Western dress. And I will not be called a nazi, as Alexandra has been labled for daring to consider that Clintonian-word-parsing and Orwellian Doubleplusgoodspeak exist in lands other than ours.

Am I wrong to be cynical? Well, yes, because cynicism is a miserable habit that is all-too-easy to oblige, but the fact is, the big-time journalists have so sullied their own stomping ground that I feel justified in wanting additional – less incurious – assurance.

Vaughn goes on to discuss the recent assertion by a progressive site that Karl Rove was “definately” going to be indicted…nnnnow….nnnnnnnowww….riiiiiiiighhhhhht NOW…okay, next Friday…ummm...and he notes that that the story has been shot down and the site has more or less done an “oops…let’s put that story on hold.”

He concludes: The fact we’re still not sure what exactly to believe about stories like the USA Today database exclusive doesn’t help clear up the picture for news consumers either. In the wake of a series of journalistic scandals – Jason Blair, Memogate, Judy Miller and many others – it’s understandable why, in many quarters, the MSM is seen as no more reliable than many blogs or Web sites. All good reasons to question any story you come across. And all good reasons for news organizations to be more transparent and open with readers — and harder on ourselves — than ever.

And this is why I really like CBS’ Public Eye. Vaughn Ververs and Dick Meyer, who (I think) directs the show over there, are the sort of respectable journalists who dare admit to the chinks in the armor of the press and give pretty fair assessments more often than not. Also, I like them because Public Eye, for some reason, seems to inspire me to write posts with Latin headings…. :-)

A nice interview with Vaughn Ververs here.

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