newsweek retraction

I feel really bad for Isikoff and Whitaker at Newsweek. What has happened to them with this Quran desecration story is truly a reporter's worst nightmare. And I believe it was an honest mistake. No one can predict when a source - anonymous or on the record -- will back away from something he or she has told you after a story runs. It happens.

It has happened to me on one occasion - with a Metro Pulse cover story I wrote on the Promise Keepers. A prominent local businesswoman claimed I had not quoted her accurately. The next week, she claimed she hadn't said anything even remotely similar to what I had written. I had my notes, though, and my editor backed me up.

And of course, no one died, as is being claimed in the Newsweek flapped. That seems like overreaching to me - blaming the riot deaths specifically on ten lines in Newsweek magazine, when the same stories about Quran desecration by U.S. troops had been circulating in the Arab media for months.

Anonymous sources are problematic, and increasingly editors won't let reporters use them. But I feel strongly that carefully researched off-the-record sourcing is critical to good investigative journalism. There would have been no Watergate without anonymous sources.

And in Isikoff's case, he actually showed the story to the source before it ran -- a controversial practice itself -- to give that person the chance to correct any errors in his reporting.

The only clear error I see in the story is that Newsweek referred to "sources" when in fact, there was apparently only one source.

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