Russell Baker Exposes "Fiction Dressed As Fact"

Russell Baker

In the summer of 1998, it was uncovered that writers for The New Republic and The Boston Globe had fabricated sources, quotes and even entire subjects in their articles. The revelations came within a month apart, making headlines and raising questions about the state of American journalism.

Russell Baker, the Pulitzer winning columnist and author, best known for his memoir Growing Up, was "not shocked" by the made-up stories. "Few forms of human activity lend themselves so readily to fakery as journalism", he wrote in his nationally syndicated New York Times 'Observer' column.

Baker's column blamed this state of affairs on factors ranging from the stiff competition of the news business to sheer laziness. The pressure to "scoop" other news outlets feeds sloppiness, if not phoniness, while the journalist's code to 'never reveal your sources' leaves the door wide open for outright fraud. "What we are talking about is simply cheating", writes Baker.

Baker closes his column with an interesting antecdote about a certain British press item reporting the death of Mohammad Mossadeghat least 13 years prematurely. Of course, Dr. Mossadegh had been subjected to false reporting, slander and paid propaganda by the American and British media all throughout his Premiership...but that's another story in itself.

New York Times - "Scepter'd Isle Sends Envoys", June 26, 1998

by Russell Baker

"During the early 1950's the Iranian Government was in the hands of one Mohammad Mossadegh, who had infuriated the big powers by threatening to take charge of his nation's oil industry.

To stop this nonsense, the C.I.A. was engineering his ruin and working to put the Shah in power. Reporters fell upon Teheran like locusts.

The Daily Express scooped the world one morning in 1953 with a bylined story from its ace foreign correspondent. ''I saw Mossadegh hanged today,'' was the opening sentence.

Mossadegh died 13 years later. That was Fleet Street. Now the Brits are everywhere in American journalism, Lord save us."

Related links:

Abbas Milani's Misleading "Great Satan Myth" in The New Republic

'T-Man in Tehran' - 1950's Comic Book Propaganda

Howard Fineman Wrong on Iran, Corporate Media Any Good?

Christopher Hitchens on the 1953 Coup in Iran

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