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Jul 24, 2011

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Thanks for an interesting article. For what it's worth, I believe there is a big difference between the Sun version of jumping the gun and that employed by the Indy. The broadsheet's reporting was a genuine attempt to put the attack into context, starting cautiously with the assertion that there had been no claim of responsibility. Not ideal, but not dishonest either.
I work for an international news agency in Asia, and we will often write something along the lines of 'there has been no claim of responsibilty but the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network have carried out a series of attacks across the province since...' or 'The United States does not officially confirm Predator drone attacks, but its military and the CIA operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the armed, unmanned aircraft in the region'.
It's a question of presenting reasonable background info in the absence of hard facts.
The Sun's version of gun-jumping, on the other hand, is mendacious and reckless. The inverted commas around 'al Qaeda' are meaningless because the claim is not attributed, and it was always going to be a big possibility that someone other than an Islamic terrorist would be to blame. The collective effect of 'al Qaeda' and 9/11 on the splash is, therefore, gutter press sensationalism.

Surely if you've just pulled the plug on one of your other scandal-laiden gossip-rags, you'd be a bit more careful about being controversial with one of your still-running publications... right? No?

As it happened, I missed all the media coverage after the initial report of 1 feared dead for about 12 hours.

That means I missed the diversion into inaccurate Islamic speculation, but it also brought home how another part of these stories is often not only rapid speculation dressed up as analysis but also hopelessly inaccurate early death figures.

I can understand why they turn out to be so wrong, but given how often the number of deaths is either hugely more than early reports (as in this tragic case and in the case of 9/11) or thankfully massively less, but only rarely roughly the same, that is also a reporting habit that could do with questioning.

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