Now do the 1619 Project!
The New York Times 2018 podcast Caliphate gained traction after it featured Shehroze Chaudhry, a Canadian who claimed to take part in Islamic State executions among other things. The 12-part podcast won a Pulitzer Prize.
Now it has all fallen apart after Canadian and American intelligence officials determined Chaudhry, who used the name Abu Huzayfah, lied about everything.
The Times admitted massive failure on their part from the top of the publication.
However, the Times did not retract the podcast. The newspaper chose to publish an editor’s note at the beginning of the transcript and put in an “audio correction” in Chaudhry’s episodes.
The Times admitted it found “significant falsehoods and other discrepancies in Huzayfah’s story” and reached out to intelligence officials.
They continued the podcast, but used Chapter 6 to explore “major discrepancies and highlighting the fact-checking process that sought to verify key elements of the narrative.”
The story began its collapse in September when Canadian authorities arrested Chaudhry and charged him “with perpetrating a terrorist hoax.”
Chaudhry’s arrest, not the “significant falsehoods” the editors found during the recordings, forced the Times “to investigate what Canadian officials had discovered, and to re-examine Mr. Chaudhry’s account and the earlier efforts to determine its validity.”
The Times “found a history of misrepresentations by Mr. Chaudhry and no corroboration that he committed the atrocities he described in the ‘Caliphate’ podcast.”
Uh…so, um, the Times missed this completely during its own investigation? Nothing but failure:
From the outset, “Caliphate” should have had the regular participation of an editor experienced in the subject matter. In addition, The Times should have pressed harder to verify Mr. Chaudhry’s claims before deciding to place so much emphasis on one individual’s account. For example, reporters and editors could have vetted more thoroughly materials Mr. Chaudhry provided for evidence that he had traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State, and pushed harder and earlier to determine what the authorities knew about him. It is also clear that elements of the original fact-checking process were not sufficiently rigorous: Times journalists were too credulous about the verification steps that were undertaken and dismissive of the lack of corroboration of essential aspects of Mr. Chaudhry’s account.
Chaudhry made outlandish claims like:
- Taking part in executions: shot a man in the head, stabbed another man in the heart and hanged him on a cross.
- Joined the religious police in Syria.
- Participated in training sessions to attack the West
- Witnessed ISIS commanders using “color-coded instructions” on maps to teach recruits “how to strike major Western targets, get into restricted areas, kill people and attain martyrdom.”
The Times executive editor Dean Baquet said:
“When The New York Times does deep, big, ambitious journalism in any format, we put it to a tremendous amount of scrutiny at the upper levels of the newsroom,” he said in a podcast interview that was scheduled to be posted by The Times on Friday.
“We did not do that in this case,” he continued. “And I think that I or somebody else should have provided that same kind of scrutiny, because it was a big, ambitious piece of journalism. And I did not provide that kind of scrutiny, nor did my top deputies with deep experience in examining investigative reporting.”
Baquet also said that the Times will keep the podcast host Rukmini Callimachi at the paper with “a new beat” because staying on the terrorism beat would be “hard to continue.”
After all, the fault belongs to everyone at the paper! So no one faces punishment or backlash. Baquet seems to brush it off as a learning experience since it “was something new” they did:
“We do a lot of things we didn’t do before,” Mr. Baquet said in the interview for this article. “We don’t just produce long-form newspaper stories. I don’t think we have built a system to give that kind of support to some of the bigger things we do.” He added, “For the most part we’ve gotten everything right. But I think this fell through the cracks, because it was a different way of telling stories than The New York Times is used to. We didn’t have a system in place to manage that, to help the audio team manage that.”
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