Sunday, December 02, 2007

Foer Folds

You've got to be kidding me. The New Republic (TNR) took four months to figure this out? The Scott Thomas Beauchamp pieces stunk from the outset, and there was no fact checking done despite the protestations to the contrary.

Fourteen pages were written by Franklin Foer to explain away his massive failure to provide oversight of his publication. Fourteen pages, and yet the only part that matters is this:
When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
A cursory examination of the Beauchamp pieces would have reveal discrepancies that should have sent up red flags.

The fact is that once TNR was prodded by Michael Goldfarb, milbloggers, and others interested in journalistic integrity into actually checking the facts, TNR found discrepancies. One story was claimed to have taken place in Iraq which was intent upon showing the horrors of war was relocated to Kuwait before Beauchamp deployed to Iraq (the melted face woman who was verbally abused by members of Beauchamp's unit). The incident had nothing to do with the war, and was relocated to an area outside of Iraq.

Foer, however, does not multiple conflicts of interest that allowed this abomination to go forward under his watch. Beauchamp's wife was responsible for fact checking, which is a major conflict of interest.

Bob Owens, who has been doggedly pursuing this story, offers the coup de gras in the deconstruction of the Foer responsibility-avoiding opus.
As editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer allowed Scott Thomas Beauchamp to publish three stories that were not competently fact-checked. At least one of those that was assigned to his wife to fact-check even though that was a clear conflict of interest. All three of those stories—not just"ShockTroops"— had significant “red flags” in them. These red flags range from the changing of a tire of a vehicle equipped with run-flat tires in "War Bonds," to several obvious and easily verifiable untrue statements, including the claim of a discovery of a kind of ammunition that do not exist, and absurd evidence for allegations of murder "Dead of Night" that could have been (and were) debunked in less than 30 seconds with a simple Google search.

The bottom line is that the Scott Beauchamp debacle was a test of editorial character for The New Republic under Franklin Foer’s leadership. For over four months, the magazine has answered that challenge by hiding behind anonymous sources, making personal attacks against critics, asserting a a massive conspiracy against them, while covering up conflicting testimony and refusing to answer the hard questions.
There isn't even a single "I'm sorry to my readers" in the whole thing.

It's inexcusable, and it also is incumbent upon the management at TNR to enlighten Foer as to his other career options outside TNR because Foer has damaged TNR with his unethical, incompetent, and incomprehensible defense of the indefensible.

Yes, Foer should be fired - he is most deserving of this fate because he enabled publication of a fabulist, and when it became apparent that things weren't adding up, he dissembled and sought to continue backing the stories despite experts coming forward to state that events could not have happened as claimed. Instead, Foer ignored all this and allowed this to fester for four months.

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