Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Lies Of Agenda Objectivity

U.S. forces bombed a house during a raid north of Baghdad early Wednesday, killing 11 people — mostly women and children, while insurgent attacks elsewhere left four dead, police and relatives said.

So starts an AP story this morning, accompanied by the powerful photo you see here. It focused on a raid in Balad, smack dab in the resistance-ridden Sunni Triangle, but to listen to Ahmed Khalaf, a relative of the family that lived in the house, "The killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children."

AP dutifully continues quoting Khalaf: "The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."

That was paragraph 12. Everything above it is about the raid, the family, the bodies in the backs of trucks.

Finally, two paragraphs later, we read:
"Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building," said Tech. Sgt. Stacy Simon, a military spokeswoman. "Coalition forces returned fire utilizing both air and ground assets."
Oh, so they were resistance fighters? So Ahmed Khalaf is lying?

This, my friends, is what I call agenda objectivity. Yes, both sides of the story are quoted, and the fundamental requirments of journalistic objectivity have been met. But the story, by -- get this -- Zidad KHALAF, is nowhere near fair. It is set up with the assumption that many won't make it all the way down to the US soldier's quote. Worse, it's set up to bias that quote when it is finally read.

It's a thing to mourn when children get caught up in a war. It's a thing to protest when reporters use their deaths to bias readers in support of the enemy. Write to Jack Stokes, AP's director of media relations, and let him know what you think. Here's an email address that will reach him:

Photo: AP
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