Reporters must not become activists

I don’t wish to prolong this correspondence any more than necessary,
but I cannot allow Lee Gordon’s (“Reality of war means this is the tip
of the iceberg”, 20 May) piece of obfuscation to go unchallenged.

In his original story, Gordon stated that orphaned girls were being used for sex by US soldiers in the green zone.

This wasn’t presented as an allegation, or even as an ongoing investigation, but as an established fact.

Furthermore, Gordon said the story had been corroborated by “whistleblowing troops”.

His
entire argument centred on the claim that such abuses were happening
“within spitting distance” of British journalists, but were unreported
because of a self-imposed conspiracy of silence by the media. But when
challenged, Gordon cannot come up with a single fact to back the story
up.

The so-called corroboration proves to be a chimera. The best
he can do is to tell us that an unnamed journalist on an unnamed weekly
is “trying to stand up the allegations”. So much for the conspiracy of
silence.

I’ve no doubt all kinds of nasty things – including
child prostitution – happen in Iraq, but I would like to see some
evidence before running the story. It is what we old-fashioned types
like to call “journalism”.

There is a serious point to be made
here. Our profession is suffering a major crisis of credibility,
largely caused by a new breed of “journalists”

who are more activists than reporterrs.

They
see their role not as dispassionate and impartial recorders of facts,
but aspropagandists selling a particular political viewpoint.

Of
course, Gordon’s original article was billed as a comment piece and I
have no problem with him airing his political views, but anything
presented as a fact should be subject to rigorous journalistic
standards, and this clearly wasn’t the case here.

It is when the
“activist” gets the better of the “reporter” that you run into trouble
– as CBS, Newsweek and the BBC have found out to their cost.

Bill Carmichael Skipton North Yorkshire

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