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Fast-Forward Controversy

This week's budding controversy at The New Republic is an interesting example of how journalism has changed in the Internet age. The rapid-fire pace of news gathering and disseminating has sped up the entire journalistic process ... and its detractors.

For example, check out this week's timeline in The New Republic case. The magazine – which fell prey to a dishonest contributor a decade ago, a story made into the movie "Shattered Glass" – is facing new allegations.

Saturday, July 21: The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reports on allegations being made about The New Republic's "Baghdad Diarist" – an ongoing series (3 so far) of reports filed by a soldier in Iraq. Critics had begun to assail the contributor for potential falsehoods in his reporting

Tuesday, July 24: The New York Times advances the story, featuring a quote from the magazine's editor committing "the full resources of the magazine" into investigating the concerns.

Thursday, July 26: In an online posting, The New Republic repeats its commitment to getting to the bottom of the story, and adds a letter from the contributor – who unmasks himself.

I am Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a member of Alpha Company, 1/18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division.

My pieces were always intended to provide my discreet view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military. I wanted Americans to have one soldier's view of events in Iraq.

All this transpired between a Saturday and the following Thursday.

Back in 1998, Stephen Glass was fired after Forbes magazine exposed that he had completely fabricated a story for The New Republic. In an internal investigation, the magazine found that 27 of his 41 pieces for the magazine– he began writing for them around Christmas of 1995 – contained fictionalized people and/or events. That's two years of problematic writing.

This writer makes no assessment of the writings of Private Beauchamp, true-to-life or fictitious. After reading reports from the war and having numerous off-the-record conversations, and knowing the strain our troops are under, I don't doubt the conditions in Iraq are harrowing and can bring out the worst in people. At the same time, however, his entries contain many anecdotes that warrant a closer look. This is a post about journalism, though, and it's worth noting that everything – both allegations of unethical writing and the responses to them – work at a faster pace than ever before.

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