Please ex-Lane? 31/7/2006
At this moment, I suspect there is much wringing of hands, tearing of hair and thumping of desks at Left News Central, aka The Age.
Opinion codger Terry Lane would be getting an overdue lesson in Google after convincing his Sunday Age editors to publish a report on the revelations of US Ranger Jesse Macbeth and the unspeakable atrocities service personnel were forced to carry out in Iraq.
The only problem, as revealed in the first link to pop up after a Google for “Jesse Macbeth”, is that the whole account is completely untrue and “Macbeth” is a hoax.
How will The Age explain its massive blunder?
Will Media Watch mention it tonight?
Is the Pastor to be put out to paddock?
How long before an Age apologist uses the phrase “fake but accurate”?
Much chortling and wise-acre commentary over at Tim Blair’s where the dupe was revealed.
Well, the answer to the second question is NO!!!! Anyone surprised?
Media Watch, however, took the Herald Sun to task for seemingly sloppy subbing which resulted in publication of the image of a notorious British extremist instead of a Melbourne Muslim leader. Fair enough, a regrettable blunder.
But that’s all it is, a simple mistake made well into the production cycle that did not otherwise challenge the article’s credibility. Nevertheless, it should not have occurred.
Lane’s editorial howler is far worse. There was not even the most basic check for veracity of everything that underpinned the story. It seems the whole exercise was driven by ideological wish-fulfilment and is even more disgraceful for being embellished with references to the Private Jake Kovco tragedy.
Lane has resigned. With dignity and full responsibility.
There are no excuses. No extenuating circumstances. Opinion writers are not expected to be objective and disinterested but that doesn’t give licence to be indifferent to facts. I should have checked.
Lane’s erstwhile colleague, Jon Fairne, stuck with “offered resignation” this morning on 774 as he defended the Pastor and in the process resembled nothing so much as a sand dune trench digger.
Discussing the issue with Crikey proprietor Eric Beecher, whose web site carried Lane’s resignation, Faine revealed astonishing ignorance by declaring “There by the grace of God goes I” in suggesting how easy it is to be duped by Internet sources. Faine also opined that it was inevitable some commentators could be conned because of the tsunami of information available and there wasn’t the time or means to check everything.
Beecher was having none of it, suggesting that while old media referred to the Net as “a sewer” of misinformation, he regarded it as an “ocean” of information. And that information was available to Lane with a 20 second Google exercise.
Callers in the main backed Beecher and Faine was left looking an out of touch fool. For once he was wordless when a caller focused on Lane’s astonishingly honest “I fell for it because I wanted to believe it”.
For if nothing else is gained from this sorry affair, it will be the widespread revelation that “wanna believe” is the MO for the vast majority of ABC commentators.
Tim Blair, whose site originally exposed Lane’s folly, reports that Sunday Age editor Peter Fray has refused to accept Lane’s resignation.
This is infuriating. In decades of newspaper employment, I’ve seen journalists sacked and disciplined for far less serious offences.
What message is Fray sending to his young charges? Or indeed to the vast majority of professional, responsible scribes who check their facts repeatedly before venturing into print?
As Blair says: pathetic.
Ah well, that’s one paper I won’t be shelling out for again. The Sunday Herald Sun has better footy and racing reports anyway.