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Turdblossom Writes Letters

Dear Bob Novak:

It boils down to this: as a journalist, do you feel you have a responsibility to dig into the claims made by your sources, seek out evidence and come to a professional judgment as to the real facts? Or do you feel if a charge is breathtaking enough, thoroughly checking it out isn’t a necessity?

I know you might be concerned that asking these questions could restrict your ability to make sensational charges in your column, but don’t you think you have a responsibility to provide even a shred of supporting evidence before sullying the journalistic reputations of the Washington Post?

People used to believe journalists were searching for the truth. But your column increasingly seems to be focused on wishful thinking, hoping something is one way and diminishing the search for facts and evidence in favor of repeating your fondest desires. For example, while you do ask the CIA whether Ms. Plame sent her husband, you did not press Armitage and Libby when they said "Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger."

The difficulty with your approach is you reduced yourself to the guy in the bar who repeats what the fellow next to him says – “Wilson’s wife suggested sending him! Wilson’s wife suggested sending him!” – only louder, because it suits your pre-selected story line ("the CIA is attacking the Vice President") and you don’t want the facts to get in the way of a good fable. You have relinquished the central responsibility of an investigative reporter, namely to press everyone in order to get to the facts. You didn’t subject the statements of others to skeptical and independent review. You have chosen instead to simply repeat something someone else says because it agrees with the theme line your sources fed you, created the nifty counter-attack to shield the Vice President.

Oh I’m sorry. Did I say this was a letter to Novak criticizing him for his column outing Valerie Plame? I meant it was a letter to Dan Abrams to, once again, say things to the press Rove is unwilling to say under oath to HJC. (h/t TP)

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Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.