OK, Let's Get This Straight ...

It seems bloggers weren't so happy with my observation that they had been "strangely silent" about documents released regarding Joel Hinrichs' suicide. Hinrichs, you may remember, was the young man who blew himself up not far from a packed University of Oklahoma football game on October 2nd and set off a rash of terrorism theories in the blogosphere. Given all the attention paid to the story at that time, I did think it odd that nobody seemed eager to follow up on some of the information that had been publicly released.

Well, now they have, at least some of them. Michelle Malkin, who spearheaded the original collection of theories and discussion, has generously stepped up to the plate, despite the inconvenience. Here's how she put her efforts to comb through some 350 pages of unsealed court documents:
"It would have been nice if an MSM outlet with boundless time, resources, and manpower -- say, CBS News -- had made the unsealed documents available to the public. But they didn't. So I spent several hours scanning and uploading as many of the records as I could."
Michelle has made 94 pages available on her website as a public service. She does a tremendous amount of work for one person, but neither she nor anyone else should be under the illusion that CBS News has some unlimited amount of "time, resources and manpower" available.

Michelle then takes me to task for daring to suggest bloggers update their stories:
"Ververs does not say whether he or anyone else at his hallowed news network actually obtained or read the court records. If he hasn't done so, isn't his uninformed push for bloggers to 'correct' themselves, well, strange?"
I'll give Michelle this, the word "correct" was not the best choice for the sentiment I wanted to convey. My point was, quite simply, that after all the provocative and downright scary theories of a terrorist plot to blow up a football stadium – some that included reported incidents at other universities, it would be appropriate to update those theories when new information became available.

On the bigger point, I'm told that CBS News has looked into this story and has concluded there is no evidence yet uncovered that points to anything other than the suicide of a young man. Even Malkin does not dispute this entirely:
"Was he simply a troubled soul, a freelance Islamist bent on mass murder at the OU football stadium, or something else? The unsealed papers neither prove nor disprove any of these theories."
As I think most of the media has learned all too well in recent years, the burden of proof for a story is to prove it is true to the best of their ability, not for others to prove it untrue -- total certainty is a rare commodity and it is best to err on the side of caution, not sensationalism. CBS News was not alone in probing this story and The Wall Street Journal took on some of the more fantastic claims being made by bloggers.

Before you (or Michelle) slam me for being some sort of apologist for the MSM, I ask that you remember my original posting on the issue where I urged the MSM to look into the story and commented that "it's one worth airing, whatever the facts are" -- if for no other reason than to debunk some of the hysteria. That certainly is not everyone's position.

Some people in the news business believe it is not their job to go around knocking down every rumor and conspiracy theory out there, that if the "story" is not there, it's not there. I happen to think there are circumstances in which the MSM could provide a real service by addressing some of these frenzies. But that's an honest difference of opinion and philosophy. Even if I were making those decisions, it may be hard to argue that more resources go toward this story than, say, the Pakistan earthquake, the rebuilding of New Orleans or other stories.

I look forward to following the reporting of Michelle Malkin and others on this story. All I ask is that they uphold the standards they demand of the MSM – report the facts, whatever they may be.
  • Vaughn Ververs

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