Tuesday, October 02, 2007

On Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh, the legendary American journalist who uncovered the My Lai Massacre and reported extensively on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, recently published “Shifting Targets,” his fourth New Yorker article about Bush Administration plans to bomb Iran.

In his reporting, Hersh relies a great deal on unnamed sources. Yesterday, White House press secretary Dana Perino mentioned this in an attempt to undermine Hersh’s work. “Every two months or so, Sy Hersh writes an article in The New Yorker magazine, and CNN provides him a forum in which to talk about his article and all the anonymous sources that are quoted in it,” Perino said at a press briefing. (Dan Froomkin of the Washinton Post did a great job covering this and the ensuing dab-and-dodge discussion that took place between Perino and journalists.)

Perino’s sneaky critique of Hersh’s use of anonymous sources is ill informed and dishonest—but then again, what else would you expect from one of George W. Bush’s press secretaries?

Hersh’s work gets thoroughly fact-checked, just like everything else The New Yorker prints. As New Yorker editor David Remnick told the Columbia Journalism Review in April 2003: “I know every single source that is in his pieces. To "every 'retired intelligence officer,' every general with reason to know, and all those phrases that one has to use, alas, by necessity, I say, 'Who is it? What's his interest?' We talk it through.” But you have to wonder: Who the hell fact-checks Seymour Hersh’s articles? And how the hell do they do it?


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