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Monday, December 24, 2007

Ripping off the Elder?

On Saturday night, I did what I often do - I looked through the auto-translated Arabic press to see if there was anything interesting to blog. An article in Ma'an about an Arafat aide admitting that Yasir Arafat had headed the Black September Organization fit the bill, and as I've done dozens of times before I posted my "scoop."

Unlike most times, though, this was noticed by a very popular blog, Little Green Footballs, and as a result I received some 2500 page hits.

Since I am not a native Arabic speaker I sometimes make small mistakes in interpreting the autotranslation. I wrote that the Arafat aide was writing a series of articles for the Al-Ahram newspaper about Arafat and Black September; in fact, as Ma'an later mentioned in its own English edition, the magazine Al-Ahram al-Arabi will publish excerpts of the aide's new autobiography which will be published as a book. These were two relatively minor mistakes (the name of the magazine vs. the Al-Ahram newspaper, and the exact circumstances of the publication) that didn't change the fundamental nature of the story but that I would have preferred to have cited accurately to begin with.

Now, Arutz-7 has published its own version of the story under the byline Hana Levi Julian:
The Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency reported Sunday that Marwan Kanafani is expected to publish the series of articles in the Egyptian Al Ahram newspaper.
So Arutz-7 repeated both of my mistakes; it didn't bother to check the Arabic Ma'an even though it presumably has access to Arabic-speakers; and it didn't credit me (which would be forgivable if it had independently checked the sources and found out the correct details.)

These are the trials of being a news blogger - not taken seriously enough to be considered a journalist, but considered accurate enough to quote without even verifying the facts.

If Arutz-7 had bothered to check the sources, it might have been able to trace back to the original Al-Ahram al-Arabi article about this from December 15. It may have noticed the curious fact that Ma'an didn't bother mentioning the Olympic massacre but only Black September's involvement in the assassination of the Jordanian prime minister; yet the original article did mention Munich. (This shows a little about Ma'an's bias.)

But why bother doing original research when you have bloggers?