The New York Instances did not confirm ISIS claims on its “Caliphate” podcast. Now there’s a prestigious award again.
However, after nearly three months of review, the Times concluded that the podcast, co-hosted by reporter Rukmini Callimachi and audio producer Andy Mills, “did not meet our standards of accuracy,” according to an editor’s note now attached to the series is.
She said she had reassigned Callimachi, one of the most famous journalists, and would no longer cover terrorism. “My apologies to our listeners for what we missed and what we did wrong,” Callimachi wrote in a statement. “We’re correcting the record and I am committed to doing better in the future.”
And late Friday came the announcement that the Times would also return the prestigious Peabody Prize that the podcast had won.
“As the standard for quality media, the integrity of the Peabody Award is paramount, and we appreciate the professional manner in which the Times has handled this matter,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, executive director of Peabody, in a statement. “We will receive the reimbursement of the award and recognize the mutual respect of both organizations for the longstanding journalistic integrity of each other.”
Canadian officials arrested Chaudhry, who appeared on the podcast under the pseudonym Abu Huzayfah in September, and accused him of fabricating terrorist activities in media interviews. As a result, the Times found “a story of misrepresentation by Mr Chaudhry and no confirmation that he committed the atrocities he described on the Caliphate podcast,” according to the editorial team’s detailed statement on Friday.
The note fell short of a retreat, but contained several issues with “Caliphate,” including the lack of regular attendance from an editor familiar with the subject. It also blamed journalists for pushing “harder” to verify Chaudhry’s claims.
“The Times journalists were overly gullible about the verification steps carried out and disapproved of the lack of confirmation of material aspects of Mr. Chaudhry’s report,” it said.
Editor-in-chief Dean Baquet told The Times in an interview that Callimachi – who had no byline since the review process began – had been reassigned but did not say what her new job would be. “I think it is difficult to deal with terrorism after what happened to this story,” he told the newspaper. “But I think she’s a good reporter.”
Baquet also told the Times that the fault was not with a journalist but was an institutional fault. He accused himself and other “top MPs with profound experience reviewing investigative reports” for not paying enough attention to such an ambitious piece of journalism.
In October, a Times columnist, Ben Smith, reported that two top editors – an international editor and an assistant senior editor – were reviewing a draft of the series and warning the podcast team that it depended on the credibility of an unconfirmed source that it was a “hectic Effort to save the project “.
In a podcast interview broadcast on Friday, Baquet said the debacle showed the threat of confirmatory bias – or “not paying enough attention to this strong evidence that challenged the evidence we had,” he said. “Whenever you write on the subject of ISIS, you will always be gloomy and a little confused. You will just always get it, it’s never clean. But honestly, that’s one reason to be five times as careful. “
Baquet told the Washington Post that the withdrawal was not warranted. “I understand the term ‘withdrawal’ to mean that we took it out of public transport and, in other words, unpublished it. It feels like covering up. The most important thing I believe is that we talked very carefully about what was wrong. “
News organizations have grappled with correcting or changing grossly inaccurate reports, and withdrawals are relatively rare.
Atlantic magazine withdrew a story last month about wealthy parents pushing their children into niche sports after saying they could “fail to confirm the trustworthiness and credibility of author Ruth Shalit Barrett,” and therefore we can prove the veracity of not confirm the article. “
However, New York magazine turned it down this week after discovering that the main characters appeared to have lied about their backgrounds in a 2018 National Magazine Award-winning article. Although the magazine found that the falsehoods “largely undermined the credibility of what they were telling us,” it chose to add a long editor’s note to the story and kept it online in its original form. A spokesman for the New Yorker said the magazine stood by its editor’s note.
Callimachi noted that she picked up some of Chaudhry’s lies and acknowledged them in history, but accused herself of missing out on other lies.
“As journalists, we demand transparency from our sources, so we should expect this from ourselves,” she said in her statement. “It’s humbling to think about what I missed reporting on our podcast. When I think of my colleagues and the newsroom that I have disappointed, it’s a failure. “
Mills, an audio reporter and producer who works on the Times’ popular podcast, The Daily, was the lead producer and co-reporter of Caliphate. He declined to comment on the matter. When asked about his status in the paper, a Times spokeswoman said they would “not comment on any individual employee” other than Callimachi’s reassignment.
As part of the newspaper’s review, a team of Times writers examined Chaudhry’s story and found no confirmation of the story he shared in Caliphate. US officials told them they believed Chaudhry would never pose a terrorist threat, even though it was almost impossible to say with “absolute certainty” that he never entered Syria.
The boom in narrative podcasts, which have transformed many conventions from long-form feature texts into gripping audio stories, began with the 2014 true crime hit “Serial”. A common narrative tactic is to show a presenter as the character in the drama and invite the audience to follow them as they try to unravel secrets.
The Times aggressively followed podcasts. The flagship “The Daily” is published every day and shows Times reporters delving into their work. That summer, The Times acquired the company that produced “Serial”.
“Caliphate” was seen as a triumph for the organization, earning the newspaper’s Times its first Peabody Audio Award and Callimachi a finalization for the Pulitzer Prize.
The Caliphate debacle was the latest in a series of controversies over the reporting and handling of the Times. The most notable argument this summer was the decision to publish a column by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) Advocating military intervention to quell violent civil protests following the death of George Floyd. The column resulted in the resignation of the editorial page editor, James Bennet, who was seen as a leading candidate to succeed Baquet.
Like Callimachi, other Times journalists have been hired and not fired when their jobs or behavior were questioned. Deputy Editor of the editorial page, James Dao, was reassigned after the uproar over the publication of Cotton’s comment, as was Glenn Thrush, a former Times White House reporter who was ripped off in 2017 after being hired on charges Misconduct emerged from Politico. Ali Watkins, who was in charge of National Security for the Times, landed a new assignment in 2018 after announcing she was romantically involved with a Senate Intelligence Committee official who had access to sensitive intelligence.
Questions about “Caliphate” began as soon as it aired in April 2018. The podcast sparked heated debate in Canada about the threat of terrorism and criticism of the government’s alleged inaction against Chaudhry, who lives in the Toronto area.
But it wasn’t clear that Chaudhry could actually support the claims he made on the podcast. In an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in September 2017, he mentioned witnessing acts of violence but made no mention of executions. In May 2018, he informed the CBC that he made up the murder claim in Caliphate and stated, “I was childish. I was describing what I saw and basically I was close enough to believe it was me. “
Callimachi said she interviewed Chaudhry in 2016 and after that he started changing his story. “He spoke to us in that time window when he essentially thought he had slipped through the cracks,” she told the CBC in 2018.
“Caliphate” sought to address the burgeoning controversy over its own credibility in the sixth of its 12 episodes – an episode that aired a few days after the series was questioned by the CBC. Subsequently, efforts to review Huzayfah’s report were detailed, and it was concluded that he had misled the Times about his radicalization schedule and travel dates to Syria.
The Times initially defended the podcast in its initial statements after Chaudhry’s arrest in late September – noting that “the uncertainty is over [Chaudhry’s] The story is central to every episode of Caliphate he appears in “- before he decides to start a review.
Callimachi’s defense lawyers have stated that their coverage of terrorism was instrumental in helping the group better understand and that screening terrorists is an inherently difficult endeavor.
Before that, however, questions were asked about Callimachi’s work. Her text and audio project “The ISIS Files” has been criticized by scholars who disapproved of her removal of 15,000 documents from Iraq. The Times said the documents, now archived at George Washington University, were legally transferred under the supervision of Iraqi security and customs officials.
In 2014, Callimarchi wrote about a Syrian ISIS prisoner who said he saw American hostages and warned US government officials in vain. In response to questions from a Syrian journalist who was helping Callimachi with the story, the Times sent another journalist to Turkey to re-interview the subject. The Times continues to stand by the story.
Michael Foley, the brother of James Foley, an American journalist who was executed in 2014 by Islamic State activists in Syria, has publicly denounced their coverage of his death. Foley insisted that the Times correct its coverage of the nature of his brother’s torture by militants and his alleged conversion to Islam. “She left our family with a lot of pain from her unprofessionalism and lies,” he told the Daily Beast. The Times also stood by Callimachi’s account of Foley’s death.
Canadian officials continue to push Chaudhry.
This story, originally posted at 11:30 a.m., was updated on Friday night.