Up the river without a paddle

Mr. Kurtz today, in a Washington Post chat:

(A chat participant from Baltimore asks): A couple of months ago the big story coming out of Iraq was that the Antiquities Museum had been looted of many of its priceless treasures.

Then we learned that many of its most important artifacts had been protected before the war, and that only 33 artifacts had disappeared, and conservative media outlets jumped on the initial reports as examples of liberal bias and unsubstantiated gloom and doom over Iraq taking precedence over what was really going on.

Now, The Washington Post reports (June 21) that at least 6000 artifacts WERE in fact, looted, and the number is expecte to rise after a full accounting:

So what’s the story here? Why is it taking so long to get a clear picture of what went on with the Museum? Did the Administration organize a disinformation offensive to counter an initial story that was bringing them some pretty bad PR?

Also, a couple of months ago I asked you if the media had a responsibility to come up with a total for Iraqi civilian casualties in the face of the Administration/Pentagon’s refusal to do so. You said you felt the media did have such a responsibility. But so far we’ve seen nothing, and frankly, I’m skeptical we ever will. This is dissappointing, especially given how much the media profitted financially from the war, sending its “embedded” reporters along for the ride, and providing us all with so much live-from-the-scene-reality-TV-eat-you-heart-out nonstop, 24 hr. coverage.

(Kurtz replies): It’s hard to know what the story is on the museum artifacts, though even if the 6,000 figure is accurate, that hardly approaches the earlier reporting of 170,000 stolen artifacts. But I haven’t seen any evidence that an administration plot is to blame. Also, it may well be that there’s no way for either the U.S. military or journalists to come up with a definitive figure on how many Iraqi civilians were killed, though a reasonable estimate shouldn’t be that difficult.

Kurtz in his June 11 column, “A Small Correction is in Order”:

Everyone in journalism makes mistakes, especially routine mistakes — the misspelled name, the mangled title, the wrong date. In this case, though, the press told us that, in a crushing loss for western civilization, 170,000 artifacts were stolen.

The actual number: 33.

Thanks to reader John for the heads up.