"Good newspapers pride themselves on obtaining fresh information, revealing facts and describing what is happening in the world. We do this not by hacking phones but by walking the streets, asking people questions and checking facts." (Robust, vibrant media is vital for democracy: Calls for media regulation are opportunistic & dangerous, Editorial, The Australian, 16/7/11)
Really? Is this how the report Israel, Jordan & parts of Turkey within range: Syrian missiles arm Hezbollah by Richard Beeston, Nicholas Blanford & Sheera Frenkel, published in The Times and The Australian of July 16, came to be written?
To set the scene, here's the first paragraph:
"Syria has accelerated its supply of weapons, including advanced ballistic missiles, to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon in a move that could further inflame an already destabilised region."
Now check out these priceless lead-ins:
"According to intelligence sources in the West and the Middle East..."
"'A new reality has dawned', an intelligence report seen by The Times said. 'This is the first time a terror organisation has obtained a missile of this type...'"
"Sources close to Hezbollah said..."
"One Hezbollah fighter joked that the scale of the arms shipment into Lebanon was so great that 'we don't know where to put it all'."
"Israeli military intelligence also confirmed that..."
Taking both report and editorial at face value necessitates suspending your disbelief and imagining something like this:
Scene: Somewhere deep in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, BB&F are walking the talk, stumbling over missiles covered with (North) Korean characters overlaid with tell-tale Iranian, Syrian and now Lebanese fingerprints. These fiendish devices litter the landscape all the way to the Syrian border. Assorted Hezbollah terrorists are dotted around scratching their heads and muttering the Arabic equivalents of 'What the f...!' and 'You've gotta be joking!'. BB&F approach one such troubled individual.
BB&F (extending hands): Quality Journalists, my good man. Well, well, well, this is quite a collection of fireworks you've got here!
HT (declining to shake and spitting on the ground): You said it, infidel dogs and/or Mossad spies.
BB&F (gesturing to the four corners): So, what are you going to do with it all?
HT (twirling moustache and smiling broadly): Wipe Israel, Jordan and parts of Turkey off the map, of course!
BB&F: No, we mean what are you going to do with it now.
HT (laughing): Oh, right. Wish we knew. We've got so much bloody rubbish here, we don't know where to put it all.
BB&F (to one another, smirking behind cupped hands): Oh, we do. We do.