New York Times London bureau chief and Pulitzer Prize–winning war reporter John Burns spoke on the radio with Hugh Hewitt yesterday about Michael Hastings’ piece in Rolling Stone.
“My issue is with precise quotes,” Mr. Burns said, “but not with the general trend of the article.” Mr. Burns explained:
There are moments which just don’t fit that formula. There are long, informal periods traveling on helicopters over hostile territory with the generals chatting over their headset, bunking down for the night side by side on a piece of rough-hewn concrete. You build up a kind of trust. It’s not explicit, it’s just there. And my feeling is that it’s the responsibility of the reporter to judge in those circumstances what is fairly reportable, and what is not, and to go beyond that, what it is necessary to report. And I think that much of what we learned about General McChrystal, in what was really a very powerful Rolling Stone article, and the general feeling of unease and disrespect towards the administration in Washington, could have been done without directly quoting things that were said, and I would guess, in a very ambiguous kind of circumstance, mostly by the general’s aides, which they could not have, I think, reasonably expected to end up being quoted as saying.
Mr. Hastings’ forthcoming book based on the article will certainly rely on direct quotes.