Reuters Spikes Story On Photographers Killed In Baghdad

Reuters Spikes Story On Photographers Killed In Baghdad

Reuters deputy Brussels bureau chief Luke Baker penned a "muscular" story that gave strong consideration to the possibility that the slaying of Reuters photographers Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh -- which has received greater attention as a result of the now well-trafficked video from WikiLeaks -- may have constituted a war crime.

Reuters EIC David Schlesinger subsequently spiked, watered down and then repurposed the story. Gawker's John Cook has the details, and the original story from Baker.

Cook points out the distinction between Schlesinger's "muted" response to the WikiLeaks disclosure, and Baker's article. Schlesinger provided an anodyne response to the matter, saying, "These stories are not easy for us to report or to be involved in." Easy or not, Baker's reporting is pretty to the point. Per Cook:

Baker's story went much farther, quoting three human rights experts describing the killings as war crimes. While portions of those quotes ended up running in a different Reuters story on the video that appeared yesterday and which Baker is credited as having contributed to, some of the more direct accusations did not. For instance, Baker quoted Clive Stafford-Smith, a human rights lawyer, saying, "I don't think there's any question that this is a violation of the Geneva Conventions." Stafford-Smith didn't appear in any of Reuters' coverage of the incident. Baker's story also paraphrased Reuters lawyer Thomas Kim saying that "further investigation may be required" into the incident--a sentiment that Schlesinger did not express in his initial statement. Kim's remark does not appear in any of Reuters' coverage of the killings. The U.S. Central Command has said it has no plans to reopen an investigation.

A Reuters spokesperson quoted in the piece insists that it is "100% not true that the story was spiked." But there's been some obvious story-changing going on. Initially, the piece was said to have been "sent back for additional reporting," only to have been "overtaken by events" and eventually carved up into an update to another story. Later, Reuters claims that the piece is delayed for want of "a wider range of experts" to have their say.

Cook's "tipster" is said to be "baffled" by Schlesinger's actions, saying, "Whose side is this guy on? Does he have any spine?" But, as Cook points out, Schlesinger's done this before.

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