‘NY Times’ Readers Hit Coverage of Iran/Iraq Weapons Link

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By: E&P Staff

Three weeks ago, E&P Online and other Web sites raised questions about The New York Times featuring prominently on its front page and Web site a report by Michael R. Gordon — based wholly on unnamed sources — claiming firm evidence that Iran was supplying “the most deadly” weapon used against U.S. forces in Iraq: a certain kind of roadside bomb. Gordon had produced key articles relating to alleged WMD in Iraq in the runup to the war that proved false.

Last week, the Times’ public editor, Byron Calame, offered his appraisal, which raised some questions about Gordon failing to provide a little more balance in his report but praising followup articles by other reporters that did seem more skeptical.

Today he printed some letters from readers, all critical. A selection follows (the full column is at www.nytimes.com).
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Now even The New York Times?s public editor must pick up a bucket of whitewash to try to paint over the newspaper?s boosting of the Bush administration?s propaganda for another misguided war, this one against Iran.

The truly unfortunate aspect is that these articles are carried on the front pages of hundreds of local newspapers. It?s a sorry mess, to which your fingerprints have been added, even through the white gloves your column claims to wear.

DANIEL C. MURPHY
San Francisco, Feb. 25, 2007

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I think very highly of Michael R. Gordon. His last book is probably the best study of the initial phase of the Iraq war. His reporting has been indispensable.

But I have also been concerned about his susceptibility to spin ? not in his books, but in his day-to-day reporting, which has raised some questions.

When the Feb. 10 paper appeared on my doorstep, my reaction was, ?Here we go again.? The problem was not that Mr. Gordon reported what he did. It was the absence of offsetting, critical views.

In my trips last year to Iraq, I dealt with local public affairs officers. They were aggressively pushing the idea that the sophisticated roadside bombs were coming from Iran. But British military authorities and the Ministry of Defense back in London were openly expressing skepticism about it.

Your statement that it was balanced by other reporting is correct. But is this really an entirely satisfactory answer?

Mr. Gordon has done decidedly critical stories. But there are enough uncritical stories to concern many readers.

SCOTT HORTON
Pelham, N.Y., Feb. 27, 2007
The writer is chairman of the New York City Bar Association?s Committee on International Law.

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Your analysis of the accuracy of The Times?s coverage of the Iran threats does not address the problem that arises from the paper?s reliance almost entirely on sources within the United States and, specifically, within the government. This occurred in the lead-up to the Iraq war and is occurring now in regard to Iran.

Times writers seem to put in just enough caveats to protect themselves if the information turns out to be incorrect. The general tone of the articles still conveys the credibility of American claims.

ELWOOD ANDERSON
Las Vegas, Feb. 25, 2007

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On the day that Michael R. Gordon?s Feb. 10 article appeared, I was outraged that such a poorly sourced (one might say nonsourced) piece would be allowed to appear on the front page of The Times.

You insult the readers when you imply that Mr. Gordon has become the scapegoat du jour and that questioning his writing is merely sour grapes ? leftover anger from the W.M.D. debacle. This demeaning argument suggests that readers aren?t able to make cogent decisions about the validity of his writing but are, rather, too busy nursing old wounds.

DIANE H. GURIEN
Kearsarge, N.H., Feb. 26, 2007

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If the Times editors were so anxious to demonstrate the tenuous nature of this story as you suggest, why was the story prominently placed on Page 1?

I recognize that a journalist?s task is difficult. But we are dealing with a president with a clear track record on war and diplomacy.

Times editors were enablers for the Iraq war. Have these editors learned nothing more than to insert mild caveats into administration propaganda that could potentially be used to lead us into another war?

JAMES SIMMONS
Chevy Chase, Md., Feb. 25, 2007



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