Thursday, August 25, 2005


Here's what can happen when you publish (or broadcast) the wrong address.

A former prosecutor on Fox News as a "terror expert" mistakenly identified the house of a family as that of a terrorist -- only, the man in question had moved three years ago. Now there's a family of five living there, with terrorist-hungry drivers shouting profanities, taking pictures and spray-painting the house. The police have stationed a squad car across the street.

The family wants a correction but has not been able to reach Fox News or John Loftus, the man who gave the address. But the LA Times has.
Both have issued apologies -- Fox in a one-line statement to the Los Angeles Times and Loftus in an e-mail to the family -- after being contacted by the newspaper. The Voricks say they have yet to see or hear a correction.

"John Loftus has been reprimanded for his careless error, and we sincerely apologize to the family," said Fox spokeswoman Irena Brigante.

Loftus also apologized and told The Times last week that "mistakes happen."

"I'm terribly sorry about that. I had no idea. That was the best information we had at the time," he said.

Loftus said he gave out the address to help local police.
Riiight. National news programs are the perfect venue for that.

An aside -- the story says, "Last weekend, someone spray-painted 'Terrist' on their home." That is indeed the mistake of the spray-painters, not the LA Times, I confirmed in an AP story.


At 4:37 AM, August 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. Complaining about TV news is like sweeping the desert, but this one really amazes me. Many years ago, the first lesson I learned in every single basic journalism class I took was never to publish a phone number or address without being absolutely rock-solid certain that it's right. Which means calling the phone number, or in this case, sending someone to the house to verify that this alleged terrorist is living there. I know they don't necessarily teach TV types to be great journalists, but this is really basic stuff.

That said, once the mistake was made & had such unpleasant consequences, why wouldn't they feel compelled to correct the story on the air? If I were the reporter, I'd want to set the record straight. (Which is probably why I'll never work in TV.)

On a side note, however, I was interested in the AP's transliteration of Iyad Hilal's group. AP writes that he is "allegedly the U.S. leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir."

The "ut" in that name represents the pronunciation in Arabic, but it really ought to be transliterated as al-Tahrir, which is how it would be written. ("Tahrir" means liberation, and, interestingly enough, it also means editor.) Of course, the group itself might prefer to use ut-Tahrir....


At 10:45 AM, August 26, 2005, Anonymous KCinDC said...

Even if they had checked that the alleged terrorist was still living there, what possible purpose would have been served by giving out the address on the air? It's purely an invitation to vigilantism, and it's nothing any journalist (or prosecutor) should be involved with.


Post a Comment

<< Home