White House suggestion rouses debate

NEW YORK: The White House is asking Newsweek to help improve America's image in the Arab world after it published a now-retracted report alleging that US interrogators provocatively mishandled a Koran.

NEW YORK: The White House is asking Newsweek to help improve America's image in the Arab world after it published a now-retracted report alleging that US interrogators provocatively mishandled a Koran.

The suggestion has touched a nerve in media circles.

The article, published in the May 9 issue's Periscope section, cited an anonymous government source, who said an upcoming report would reveal that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a Koran down a toilet.

The White House has publicly stated that Newsweek should go beyond the retraction, which was issued on May 16, to repair the damage inflicted by the report.

"I've seen Newsweek officials out on television shows or appearing on Nightline," said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary at a recent press briefing. "I would hope that they would be appearing on Arab networks, as well, and talking to the region about this issue."

Newsweek declined to comment for this article.

At a press briefing last week, several journalists took exception to McClellan's suggestion. But Jody Powell, former press secretary for President Jimmy Carter and current CEO and chairman of public affairs shop Powell Tate, said he does not think asking for Newsweek's help is out of line.

"To ask a news organization to be very clear and direct about correcting a mistake is quite legitimate," he added.

Tom Rosenstiel, director for The Project for Excellence in Journalism, said he believes the clash is indicative of a larger friction between the administration and the press. However, he said a review of editorial policies by Newsweek and other news organizations could still be beneficial.

"If the press develops more formal procedures and is more reflective and conscious of what [it does], that's good for journalism," said Rosenstiel. "And that's going to help to protect journalism against politicians who want ... to control their message."

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