Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NYT Reporter Who Wrote The Afghanistan Mineral Story Bashes Bloggers; Apologizes

On Monday, New York Times reporter James Risen published an article that made a remarkable claim. According to Risen, US scientists had recently discovered vast mineral deposits in Afghanistan worth at least $1 trillion.

Suspicious bloggers immediately jumped on the report. Many of them (myself included) pointed out that the story of mineral deposits in Afghanistan emerged as early as the 1980s and as recently as 2007. Indeed, a 2007 joint report of the US Geological Survey and the Navy similarly claimed that the nation had rich mineral reserves.

Some bloggers even questioned the timing of the story. The war in Afghanistan has become the subject of increasing criticism. Some commentators suggested that the story was a Pentagon-planted narrative seeking to rally public support for the war.

Risen Strikes Back
During a telephone interview with Yahoo News blogger John Cook, Risen attacked bloggers who questioned his reporting:
"Bloggers should do their own reporting instead of sitting around in their pajamas....

The thing that amazes me is that the blogosphere thinks they can deconstruct other people's stories. . . .Do you even know anything about me? Maybe you were still in school when I broke the NSA story, I don't know. It was back when you were in kindergarten, I think.
Risen shared a Pulitzer for breaking the NSA story in 2006. Despite this fact, his recent defensiveness is offensive and unprofessional. Furthermore, Risen cannot dispute the fact that his recent report about Afghanistan's mineral reserves did not uncover any new data. Nonetheless, Risen asks, "If it wasn't news, then why didn't anybody write about it?" Apparently, Risen did not read the blog articles that questioned his story. They contain numerous citations to articles that covered this issue in the past. Cook also provides links to similar reporting in his blog post.

Perhaps realizing that his angry words would become public, Risen called Cook after the interview and offered an apology to bloggers:
"I was taken aback by some of the criticism, and didn't sleep well last night, and was upset about it. I apologize."
Closing Comment
Clearly, the professional media could benefit from the scrutiny of hardworking and thoughtful bloggers. The general animosity Risen expresses towards bloggers is unwarranted.

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