Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Journalistic Standards

After my previous post on Greg Valentini, the war-story telling vet who is suing the VA, I e-mailed it to Steve Lopez, the journalist for the LA Times who written 3 stories on the guy with lurid but vague tales of bloody combat. I never received a response.

I just noticed though that Mr. Lopez has now written a fourth article on the guy, with no mention of the previous issues with his stories.

Valentini enlisted in the Army in 2000 primarily for the G.I. Bill and ended up in heavy combat a year later, even though he's generally antiwar. He hung a "Veterans for Peace" sign on his dorm room door at the vet center, and when Zenner objected, Valentini hung it on Zenner's door.

So I e-mailed Mr. Lopez again, and this time I got a pretty swift response. Mr. Lopez insisted that I didn't know what I was talking about and the Rakkasans had fought in Operation Anaconda. Nevermind that I had already stated that fact in the first story that I did, less than a week in a support roll for the Army Rangers, does not count as "9 months of bloody combat", in addition to the issues of claiming to have assaulted Tora Bora or the Kandahar Airport.

Anyway, after several exchanges as I tried to explain to Mr. Lopez that either both him and Laurence Tribe (he claimed not to be familiar with Tribe's claims) had made up stories, or Valentini had lied to him, I finally got a response stating, "Ok, well I appreciate your service there, and I admit to not knowing everything greg went through because I wasn’t there with him".

Well that isn't the point! I don't know absolutely everything that he did either, but at least I can check the big things, such as the fact that the 101st didn't suffer a single fatality despite their "9 months of heavy combat", hell, I did a search for news articles on Purple Heart recipients for that tour and came up with a grand total of 1. And that was for a pilot, not an infantryman. Aren't journalists supposed to do at least the most basic fact checks, or do they just write down whatever people tell them?