Skip to comments.Paper Regrets Handling of Rumsfeld Story
Posted on 12/10/2004 9:38:24 AM PST by stylin_geek
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Readers should have been told promptly that an embedded reporter had helped frame a question that a serviceman asked of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this week in Kuwait, the reporter's publisher says.
The question to Rumsfeld from Spc. Thomas "Jerry" Wilson, 31, of Nashville, complaining that many military vehicles in Iraq (news - web sites) are not adequately armored, has touched off a storm of new publicity about the issue.
"In hindsight, information on how the question was framed should have been included in Thursday's story in the Times Free Press. It was not," the paper's publisher and executive editor, Tom Griscom, said in a note to readers published Friday.
Military affairs reporter Edward Lee Pitts, who is embedded with the 278th Regimental Combat Team, said he worked with guardsmen after being told reporters would not be allowed to ask Rumsfeld any questions.
Griscom said Pitts "used the tools available to him as a journalist to report on a story that has been and remains important to members of the 278th and those back at home."
Pitts had sent an e-mail to co-workers back in Tennessee on Wednesday outlining his role.
"I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts," he wrote. "Before hand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have."
He also said he went to the officer running the question and answer session "and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd."
But the story by Pitts published Thursday about the question to Rumsfeld made no mention of Pitts' own role.
The question from Wilson appeared to surprise Rumsfeld on Wednesday and prompted cheers among the soldiers listening to him in a hangar.
"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Wilson had said.
Rumsfeld said the Army was prodding manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it quickly, but added, "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have."
In commending Pitts' work, Griscom, who served as White House communications director under President Reagan, said Pitts "used what was available to him to get an answer to a story that we have covered and that has been important."
Kelly McBride, a member of the ethics faculty at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said she did not fault the reporter for getting help with asking the question, but described the failure to include that information with his story as "dishonest with his readers."
"I suspect some people would see it as manipulative," McBride said. "I suspect Rumsfeld felt manipulated."
Pentagon (news - web sites) spokesman Larry Di Rita said Rumsfeld gives reporters ample time to ask questions and that his appearance in Kuwait was for the soldiers.
"Town Hall meetings are intended for soldiers to have dialogue with the secretary of defense," Di Rita said. "It would be unfortunate to discover that anyone might have interfered with that opportunity, whatever the intention."
The reporter's e-mail also indicated Pitts was proud of his role in asking the question: "I just had one of my best days as a journalist today," he wrote. He said it "felt good" that the question and answer received so much attention from other media.
His integrity shines as opposed to the slimy reporter's lack thereof.
You were right; again.
What they are thinking is that they wished their guy had not leaked out the fact that he was behind the question.
How about "manipulated?" "Planted?"
He didn't just "suggest" the question; he handpicked the guys he took with him to the townhall and made sure that the guy who was picking the questioners picked them.
We hear the Dan Rather excuse: "But the question was valid."
Griscom said Pitts "used the tools available to him as a journalist to report on a story...
Tools? They are characterizing young impressionable Guardsmen as "tools?"
"Available to him?" I'd rectify that immediately if I were in charge.
To the pulisher, you got caught, so stuff it. Or as TAHRAAAZA says: SHOVE IT
This was just another sleazy trick that "journalists" can use to covertly discredit the Bush administration.
It is valueless to discerning listeners and or readers!
Hateful is a good description and is what news sellers and news writers can use to get undeserved attention!
A dirty trick is still a dirty trick. Maybe the paper deserves some credit for half confessing it. But what choice did they have? They aren't a megapower like CBS. And the email was already out convicting them of misbehavior.
Yes, they were wrong to withhold the fact that the question was planted. And now they are wrong not confess that planting a question in such circumstances is just plain wrong.
The reporter was stupid to have left a paper trail with his email boasting about his own cleverness. But stupidity doesn't excuse professional misbehavior. Now he should be disciplined or fired.
I'd like to thank the person who this reporter sent his e-mail to who ratted him out. It is obvious that the reporter who leaked the e-mail thought this Pitts guy was manipulating the news instead of just reporting it.
Plus I didn't like Wilson's rendition of having to go through the dumps to find the material. I thought it sounded exaggerated and false.
That probably explains why the newspaper is making no bones about apologizing for what happened, it wasn't malicious intent on their part as it would be in the case of the NY Times or CBS, but a case of them being taken advantage of by one of there reporters.
Is FR allowed to drag over some of their better articles/letters?
Speaking like a Kennedy, its not really rape if you say your sorry is it?
I actually discussed this topic with my college english teacher. She is a liberal but expressed deep disgust over what has become of the media, i.e. NYT, Dan Rather, and now this.
The only thing they regret is getting caught.
"Plus I didn't like Wilson's rendition of having to go through the dumps to find the material. I thought it sounded exaggerated and false."
Why? During WWII soldiers used sandbags and anything else they could get their hands on to increase the armor protection of their Sherman tanks. If you were in Iraq you would likely be doing the same thing. There is no such thing as too much armor. More is always better.
Thanks, their contributors are excellent.
No, it didn't. Here's the very first thing Rumsfeld said when giving his lengthy answer. Yes, he asked for the question to be repeated--as in "I missed the first part of your question"---and it is my opinion if he was taken aback at all it was because the "first part" of the question said we'd been in Iraq coming up on *three* years. Anyhoo, Rumsfeld went on and on and on and didn't seem the least surprised since he'd JUST been discussing the issue as one can see here:
SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever theyre not needed, to a place here where they are needed. Im told that they are being the Army is I think its something like 400 a month are being done. And its essentially a matter of physics. It isnt a matter of money. It isnt a matter on the part of the Army of desire. Its a matter of production and capability of doing it.
he went on from there.
Because there are mechanical divisions in Iraq. I'm assuming they haul any vehicles that have been hit by IEDs to the mechanics location. I would assume that the military would used these vehicles to get parts/armour off of instead of going to dumps.
I think the soldier was giving a sob story before his "pre-planned" question to Rumsfield. I think the sob story came from the reporter's suggestion.
You "assume" I am wrong.
GEN. WHITCOMB: Ma'am, no I have not spoken with Specialist Wilson, and purposely I didn't. The point is not whether he was going through a landfill -- and I'll tell you how we do things -- the point is he brought up a question on up-armored vehicles.
What I think Specialist Wilson was probably talking about is going through a facility that we've got that takes vehicles of two types; one, it takes vehicles that have been hit in combat and can't be fixed in Iraq and we bring them back here into Kuwait and we either fix them or we take parts off them that we can use. And some of those parts may, in fact, be the level-three armor, the steel plating that we either take off and put into stacks that we'll reuse, or that my suspicion -- and it's a suspicion only -- is that Specialist Wilson and his crew came in and found a vehicle or found some of that stuff and was taking it to add on to their vehicles. It's counterproductive to go try and track the specialist down. He had a concern for the armoring for his vehicles, as we all do, and he brought that up and we addressed that. I don't think -- well, I just don't know whether he was in a landfill. We don't normally throw things that we can use back into a trash bin or a landfill-type thing.
I wonder if this Pitts is any relation to William Rivers Pitts?.....
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