Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto writes that Reuters' anti-American sentiments have become more noticeable since the 9/11 disaster. And it has been particularly evident in its coverage of coalition military operations in Iraq. Reuters recently hit a new low in its reporting on Army Private Jessica Lynch's homecoming.
Reuters used the event to replay allegations that the U.S. military had hyped Lynch's ordeal and rescue into a "story of U.S. heroism under fire." Its coverage was devoted primarily to exposing what it labeled "government propaganda." Later versions of the wire story had media critics alleging that "the TV cameras will not show the return of an injured soldier so much as a reality TV drama co-produced by U.S. government propaganda and credulous reporters."
Media experts told Reuters that reporters had erred in their original coverage by "thinking that the government could be trusted to reflect reality."
The story carried the byline of Elizabeth Wrenn, a statehouse reporter for the Charlestown, W.V., Daily Mail. Not surprisingly, Wrenn took a lot of heat on talk radio and elsewhere for her story.
But in a column Wrenn subsequently wrote for the Daily Mail, she says that she did not write the story that Reuters ran. Her original story did raise questions about coverage of the Lynch story. And she did quote a local resident as saying "I think there is a lot of false information about her story."
But she says Reuters asked if it could use her byline on the story she had filed with the wire service. The wire service then inserted all the references to government propaganda and hyping of the Lynch story. After she read Reuters' version of her story, she asked that her byline be removed. The wire service did not comply with her request. Wrenn's Daily Mail column was subsequently reprinted in the New York Post and elsewhere on the Internet.
The Washington Times ran a follow-up story on the controversy. Reuters defended its "right to temper a story" of such global importance. It said that it is common practice for original copy submitted to wire services to be "supplemented by additional copy and editing from other Reuters staffers."
The Times' reporter agreed that it is commonplace for the wire services to edit dispatches from its stringers or free lancers, but "care is taken not to change the meaning of the original dispatches."
Wrenn says that is exactly what Reuters did. She wrote that she was "amazed" that Reuters would use her byline on a story that ended up with none of her original contributions. She said that she learned in college "how to report fairly, which is what I thought I was doing for Reuters."
Wrenn wrote that she "may never know why some members of the media act the way they do." She didn’t anticipate that Reuters would use her story to advance its own anti-American agenda.
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