EDITORIAL 

Freedom of Information?

While we do enjoy poking fun from time to time at our colleagues at the local daily, we rarely if ever find cause to question their sanity. But this week gave us pause. Someone needs to call Memphis' attention to a serious breach of journalistic protocol on the front page of Monday's Commercial Appeal, and it might as well be us.

As CA readers may have observed, the paper's April 4th lead article was a profile entitled "A Medal of Honor first -- Iraq war." Written by Eric B. Cramer, the story details the heroism of Army sergeant Paul R. Smith of Tampa, Florida, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on the second anniversary of his death in combat in Iraq.

We do not intend to detract from Smith's noble sacrifice on behalf of his country, but this particular "news" story was generated, as the byline clearly indicates, by the Army News Service, part of the U.S. Army Public Affairs office, an organization whose Web site (4.army.mil) mission statement gives as its purpose, "[helping] to establish the conditions that lead to confidence in America's Army."

Since when does a credible newspaper knowingly offer its readers official government "reporting" verbatim, under any circumstances?

A mountain of misinformation has emanated from the Army's Public Affairs Office in recent times, most notably the Private Jessica Lynch fable, a propaganda monstrosity that will go into the books as one of the most disgraceful instances of deliberate media distortion in American history. In light of this, The Commercial Appeal's decision to lead Monday's paper with a story from the Army News Service is unfathomable and an embarrassment to journalism.

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