Burning Newsweek

So what’s up with this Newsweek story?

As our cousin FishbowlNY points out, it’s a pretty strong (and late) response to an item that the Pentagon’s known about for nearly three weeks.

This is the worst kind of journalistic flap–one that questions both the news organization’s veracity and its patriotism. Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker’s column walks the line: “We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.” But then when you read him a little more closely, they’re not exactly saying they were wrong. The non-retraction retraction is more about the reporting method and how the information got out and less about whether it was, well, untrue.

Might this be becoming a Dan Rather/60 Minutes-type incident where the information was right but the way that it got out was wrong?

The biggest question here: Who burned Michael Isikoff (left) and John Barry? We’ve seen Isikoff in action, he has a good track record, and he’s not prone to being unnecessarily unkind to the administration, so our completely uninformed opinion is that whoever told them the info began to feel some heat. What had seemed like a disgusting but innocent brief two weeks ago suddenly blew up into deadly anti-American riots. Someone had to take the fall on that one.

Any tips or information out there on the reporting process behind this story?

UPDATE: A real-live anonymous source named “John” joined Howard Kurtz’s weekly chat today to share his opinions of Isikoff:

Sarasota, Fla.: Howard, I’ve worked with Michael Isikoff as both an anonymous and named source. I think he blew it here, but that it’s not his norm. He’s always asked the follow-up question to make sure he correctly understood what he was hearing. And he was always willing to listen to something that was outside his current line of thinking. But the pooch is walking gingerly right now. John

He’s got us beat–the best we’ve ever been in an Isikoff story is an anonymous source, never a named one. It’s extra special to get a name in an Isikoff story.