How Close Is Too Close For Comfort?

The Washington Post ran a front page story Friday on the FBI’s Virtual Case File that offered readers a recap of the developments. With the five year anniversary of 9-11 just weeks away, the timing seemed appropriate. That is, of course, until Dan Eggen was pointed to a similar story (during a chat)that ran a year ago in IEEE Spectrum.

    New York, NY: “IEEE Spectrum ran this same story with most of the same sources, including the first and only public statement by former SAIC contractor Matthew Patton in September 2005, one year ago. Spectrum also litigated a FOIA request for nine months before obtaining the Aerospace report last April, and posted a radio roundtable last June. So why isn’t IEEE Spectrum cited or its investigative reporting acknowledged in any way? And what is so new about this year old story that it merits front page coverage in the Post?”

    Eggen: “Thought I’d post this just to get this complaint out there. … I know I read that piece along with numerous other pieces done by us, other major newspapers and numerous other trade publications, as part of our preparation for this story. Then we did our own interviews, obtained our own documents, etc. This is pretty much the way journalism always works. I believe our story was obviously different in approach, included many different sources, and was intended as an overview of a case study five years after 9/11 for a general interest newspaper audience. We certainly never implied that this topic hadn’t been covered before–in fact we pointed it out! (If we had to avoid topics that had been covered before, I’m afraid you’d have a pretty thin newspaper every day…)”

We read both stories, (yes, a combined 16 pages on FBI technology) and they are similar, but clearly written for different audiences (and Eggen’s above justification/explanation holds up). There are some different sources and, whereas the WaPo mentioned the upcoming 5 year anniversary of 9-11, the Spectrum article mentions the then forthcoming 4th anniversary. That is 365 days of difference.

Decide for yourself. Tell us what you think.