When a Story Goes Terribly Wrong

The retraction set off a firestorm in the blogosphere and on talk radio. The Bush Administration piled on too. White House press secretary Scott McClellan urged the magazine to help undo the damage to the U.S.’s image by pointing out ways in which “our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care.” Newsweek wasn’t the only media outlet feeling the heat. By inevitable extension, journalism in general was back under a shadow, its reputation already scuffed by a series of incidents, including the Jayson Blair debacle at the New York Times, the fall of Jack Kelley at USA Today, the dubious National Guard memos at CBS, Newsweek’s use of a doctored photo of Martha Stewart on its cover, and CNN and TIME’s 1998 retraction of the “Tailwind” story that claimed the U.S. had used nerve gas during a 1970 commando mission in Laos. —Richard LacayoWhen a Story Goes Terribly Wrong (Time)

This article follows up on Newsweek’s retraction of a story alleging that a U.S. military official confirmed reports that guards flushed a prisoner’s copy of the Koran down a toilet.