black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

Dear Guardian, Where's the Transparency?

UPDATE: I just received an email from the Guardian with a link to this article, as a response to my (and others’) criticism of an article on the Norway massacre which initially suggested (strongly) that Islamist groups were the responsible party and then entirely reworded it, as though the original article never happened.  

As part of their defense, they claim that:

The basic rule on the Guardian website is that simple changes within the first 24 hours don’t require a footnote unless they are egregious – after that they do.”

Simple changes require complete rewrites? These changes were anything but simple, why else would you rewrite every single word, including the title?

"Perhaps in this case, rather than changing the article online, it would have been better for the newsdesk to add a footnote and a link to the later version."

"Perhaps"? I guess this is what we’re supposed to take away as the apology. Thanks for the altogether lame response, Guardian.

Dear Guardian, Where's the Transparency?

The Guardian, one of my favorite papers which I often quote here, has completely re-written an article on the Oslo tragedy originally titled, Oslo Bomb: Suspicion Falls on Islamist Militantsby Peter Beaumont, the foreign affairs editor for their sister paper, The Observer. I quoted an excerpt here on Friday at 9:22am, shortly after it was written. At the time, the responsible party was unknown and news of the shooting was just being broken. Mr. Beaumont offered his “expert” opinion on who could be responsible in an article that pointed all fingers to Islamist groups.

It has been known for some time that al-Qaida and other related “franchises” – including the most active groups in Yemen – have been trying to develop operations. Which leads to a second question: why Norway? 

The answer is threefold. In the first instance, with increased levels of security and surveillance in the UK and the US as well as other European capitals, Norway might have been seen as a softer target despite the recent breaking up of an al-Qaida cell in Norway. […]

A second possible factor behind the attack is a Norwegian newspaper’s reprinting in 2006 of a series of Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which prompted threats against the country.

A third potential explanation is the decision last week by a Norwegian prosecutor to file terror charges against an Iraqi-born cleric for threatening to kill Norwegian politicians if he is deported.

Not only has that excerpt been wiped in its entirety and the title replaced with, Norway Attacks Suggest Political Motive, the central theme of the article, which prematurely blamed Islamist extremists has been re-written as:

The re-appearance of an apparently large scale and co-ordinated terrorist attack in a European capital raises the inevitable questions of who was behind it. The most tempting and immediate conclusion was that it would be a jihadist group, as the style of the Oslo attack bore strong similarities to other earlier attacks in Europe and elsewhere. […] 

Nowhere is the phrase, “As I reported/speculated earlier”.

It’s especially interesting in the light of a new article by Charlie Brooker, The News Coverage of the Norway Mass-Killings was Fact-Free Conjecture:

Let’s be absolutely clear, it wasn’t experts speculating, it was guessers guessing – and they were terrible. […] 

In the aftermath of the initial bombing, they proceeded to wrestle with the one key question: why do Muslims hate Norway?

Luckily, the experts were on hand to expertly share their expert solutions to plug this apparent plot hole in the ongoing news narrative. Why do Muslims hate Norway? There had to be a reason. Norway was targeted because of its role in Afghanistan. Norway was targeted because Norwegian authorities had recently charged an extremist Muslim cleric. Norway was targeted because one of its newspapers had reprinted the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Norway was targeted because, compared to the US and UK, it is a “soft target” – in other words, they targeted it because no one expected them to. 

I expect this behavior from lower papers, not from you. What gives, Guardian?

©2011 Kateoplis