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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Report

REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT PANEL

JAMES WATT AND PAUL HARVEY

ON THE December 30, 2004, Calgary Herald HEADLINE

"For the Record"

Concerning The World's Earthquake Activities

January 12, 2005


MEDIUM & GIBLETS
FAFNIR LOBSTER LLP
Ass J.H.Missile, Esq.
Small S.J.Appendage, Esq.
1800 Power Lane, S.W.
Lake Minnetonka, MN 54321

Counsel to the Independent Review Panel


I. INTRODUCTION
On December 30 2004, Calgary Herald's front page featured a story entitled "Tsunami death toll could pass 100,000" (the "December 30 Headline" or the "Headline") concerning the World's Earthquake activities.1 The first part of the Headline was a statement of carnage. The second part of the Headline highlighted a photographic reproduction2 obtained by the Calgary Herald just prior to going to press. This photo was allegedly "taken from" the personal files of somebody somewhere. The photo, which was said to provide new information on the World's earthquake activities, showed:
  1. The Earth, via a large wave, forcing people to flee.
Within hours after the photo went to press, questions about the authenticity of the photo were raised, initially in an outpouring from the so-called blogosphere3 on one of the Internets. These early questions focused mainly on the pixels within the photo. Specifically, it was claimed that since the specific arrangement of pixels matched the pixelation of another photo, they must be fakes because cameras in existence at the time the photo was taken (a few days ago) did not feature a backward time-traveling lens to replicate the previously pixelated pixels. This was quickly followed by a raging media firestorm ("maelstrom") on all the Internets about the photo's authenticity. In response to this crisis of confidence, the Calgary Herald remained silent for a time. Finally, the Calgary Herald issued a statement that said, among other things, "The Herald sincerely apologizes to its readers for the error."

A short time ago, the Calgary Herald was not made aware of the appointment of an Independent Review panel consisting of James Watt, former Secretary of the Interior of the Unites States, and Paul Harvey, the senior Paul Harvey of Paul Harvey News and Commentary (the "Panel") to examine and pontificate as deemed appropriate.

II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The first part of the Headline suggests concerns to the Panel. For example, the excerpts pertaining to carnage conveyed the unmistakable impression that the World caused the Earthquake. The Panel finds that the vetters should have asked more questions about the ultimate source of the photo. Given the importance of the photo to the Headline and the high sensitivity of the story, it was critical to understand precisely and in great detail how the source came to acquire the photo. Moreover, the Calgary Herald had started to march into dangerous and ultimately unsustainable territory: the notion that since the content of the photo was felt to be true, demonstrating the authenticity of the photo became less important.

The Panel's investigation including watching TV, listening to the radio, and surfing the Internets, of whom knowledge of the content of the photo could be discerned. Some fraction of consensus thought the photo was not authentic and the content incorrect. Another thought the photo was "not right" but the general content was "about right". However, we will not talk about her opinion too much because she is kinda old, and that she did not have any personal knowledge about the thrust or content of the photo itself.

III. PROCESS OF INVESTIGATION
The panel expects that some may ask why it took several days for the Panel to issue its Report. All we can say is: "This is hard work. It really is hard work".

IV. BACKGROUND
Newspapers operate on the presumption of "Sh*t happens", and somebody needs to get the scoop. The Calgary Herald was created to appeal to a "younger and jazzier" demographic group than what attracted old-timers to notices tacked on to the barn door common during Calgary's frontier days.

Charlie Rose, a 60 Minutes Wednesday correspondent, also hosts a show on PBS.

V. ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF CALGARY HERALD
Basically, bosses directing lackeys, flunkies, peons, and interns with various degrees of experience. Some may be relegated to do stories on movie actors, perhaps someone like George Clooney. Notably, none of the staff were courageous enough to break the Abu Ghraib prison story.

VI. BACKGROUND ON CALGARY HERALD STANDARDS, THE WORLD'S EARTHQUAKE ALERT SYSTEM AND PHOTOGRAPH AUTHENTICATION
A. Calgary Herald Standards: The standard is "accuracy and fairness" and to try to publish all the news that fits.

B. The World's Earthquake Alert System: The chief function of the earthquake alert system in the early 70's was to be on alert for possible attacks from the south, most likely from Cuba. Some people, who were not full-time employees would normally have one duty per weekend and then a two-week duty period during the summer. I suppose we can ask some of these people what went on, but come on, who actually remembers the freckled kid from summer camp thirty years ago.

C. Photograph Authentication: See Appendix 2.

VII. THE PRODUCTION OF THE DECEMBER 30 HEADLINE
This long chapter deals with the Panel's efforts to establish a chronology of events leading to publication of the Headline.

Seemingly out of the blue, a never-before-seen photo was provided by the Calgary-based World Job and Food Bank to the Calgary Herald. This may have been deemed the "Holy Grail" for which they had been searching. Further, various background information needed to be assembled. Finally the entire Headline needed to be thoroughly and carefully vetted, particularly since this involved a highly sensitive investigative story about earthquake activities.

Somebody claimed to have seen several photos of the earthquake activity in a trash can. This person declined to meet with the Panel under acceptable conditions.

Someone named Smith claimed that he had a "tasty bricket" of information. It was not clear what Smith meant. When he later said, "If his leg is sexy and useful then we are going to do whatever it takes to help him in those areas", we found no further paper trail. The Panel wonders why (c.f. World o'Crap).

Finally, an expert consultant opened up to the Herald in a formal interview, He essentially repeated over and over: "the earthquake activity `happened' and that a person would have to reach that conclusion when reviewing the photo unless you're the village idiot". This excerpt was apparently cut from the published story out of "fairness", but it was generally understood to go to press with the Headline.

Incidentally, the records also showed that "someone" did miss a key 24-hour active alert mission to safeguard against surprise attacks in the southern United States.

The Panel does not feel that it is unfair hindsight to have expected the vetters to have probed far more deeply at the staff meeting prior to going to press. This was an extraordinarily sensitive and significant story that was being "crashed", which should have caused great care and thoroughness in the vetting process. This clearly was not achieved.

The clear inference from the Headline excerpt is that earthquake activity did occur. The Panel is troubled that this excerpt was used when other information contradicted, or at least weakened, the implication.

VIII. WHETHER THE CONTENT AND FORMAT OF THE TIDAL WAVE PHOTO IS CONSISTENT WITH THE OFFICIAL WORLD RECORDS
Calgary Herald staff indicated the Headline had to "mesh" well together with official records. The Panel addresses the meshing claims in this chapter. The Panel concludes that while several excerpts from the Headline mesh well with official earthquake activity-related records in terms of content, there exist several significant inconsistencies that undercut the meshing notion. At a minimum, the inconsistencies should have prevented an unqualified assertion as of the publication date that the photo fits precisely into the pattern of the official earthquake activity.

Accordingly, it bears repeating that the Panel simply finds that its meshing review has revealed inconsistencies between the official earthquake-related activities and the Headline photo that have not been satisfactorily explained.

IX. THE AFTERMATH
In the Panel's view, if the Calgary Herald had simply acknowledged the issues raised and told its readers promptly that it would seek to re-verify what the Calgary Herald had reported and would correct and apologize if it found anything wrong, the panel would not be writing this Report. (James, Good one, P.H.)

The Panel is troubled by this apology.

X. WHETHER THERE WAS A POLITICAL AGENDA DRIVING THE DECEMBER 30 HEADLINE

The fact that other news organizations such as the Channel Nine and Sky News in Australia fell victim to publishing and airing similar questionable photos allegedly of the earthquake-related activities, but has not been criticized by the Panel to the extent that the Calgary Herald has been might imply some political motivation -- on the Panel's part. Surely, you can't believe the Panel would have that motivation, just because Australia is a solid partner in the War on Terror and Canada is against us.

XI. RECOMMENDATION
You have been warned. The Panel recognizes that other media outlets may decide that this recommendation should pertain to them as well.. So, you have been warned too.

XII. CONCLUSION
Let the Panel begin concluding with this quote: "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk who carried a gun and ran from the mob. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it. That does not make sense. Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot-tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor with a bunch of two-foot-tall Ewoks. That does not make sense." Well, that quote does not apply to this Panel's findings. Trust us. And good day.


EXHIBITS AND APPENDICES INDEX

EXHIBITS
Exhibit 1A: Copy of December 30 Calgary Herald Front Page


1See Headline
2This large photograph on the front page is known as "the photo". The troubling caption reads "An incredible deadly tidal wave sweeps up crowds on a beach ..."
3A blog is a website that contains an online personal journal, often with reflections, comments, and hyperactive links provided by the writer.

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