New Republic editor Franklin Foer has offered an in-depth look at the magazine’s painstaking efforts to verify its three Baghdad Diarist columns, written by Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a soldier in Iraq. Conservative bloggers had challenged some of the anecdotes described in the columns, and Mr. Foer now concludes:
In retrospect, we never should have put Beauchamp in this situation. He was a young soldier in a war zone, an untried writer without journalistic training. We published his accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of anonymity–which, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not fabricate.
When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
The magazine may have erred by running the columns orginally, but it’s hard not to conclude that, since then, it’s been admirably forthright and energetic in its efforts to get to the truth.