Monday, September 23, 2013

NYT Samantha Power Profile Uses Ghost Tweets & Former Big Wigs, Scribes Schizo on Syria

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 23 -- As the 68th UN General Assembly begins, some try to write the script in advance, just as some big wigs have others write even their tweets for them. 

 These two trends come together this morning in a vacuous, unauthorized New York Times profile of US Ambassador Samantha Power, quickly re-distributed by those who cover her, ostensibly independently.

  The piece, not by Times UN correspondents Neil MacFarquhar nor his replacement Somini Sengupta but rather Sheryl Gay Stolberg, says half way through that Power "declined to be interviewed for this article." 

   Oh. There weren't enough diplomats at the General Debate who were willing or eager to be interviewed?
  Instead, the Times uses Power's Twitter account to profile her. There is only one problem: as Inner City Press reported yesterday from the Social Good Summit at the 92nd Street Y, Power couldn't say what her Twitter account handle is, and admitted that it is a US Mission to the UN staffer who read her @ replies and "briefs" her on them. (Some quickly defended or justified this; others didn't, including as a use of taxpayer money.)
From the UN Mission to the UN's transcript of the event:
MR. CASHMORE: What’s your handle?
AMBASSADOR POWER: What is my handle? I think #AmbassadorPower. Someone told me it’s #AmbassadorPower. (Laughter.) #AmbassadorPower?
  So a profile several times using this twitter account is dubious (as for example is CNN using a dubious Al Shabaab account to "report" the nationalities of Kanya's Westgate Mall attack -- which Power did not mention in her Q&A with Mashable on Sunday.)
  The Times collects fawning quotes. The "former UN Peacekeeping official" it uses, Ed Luck, has been gone for some time, but says urgently that Power is a "superstar" in his former venue. (He was also before he left a "Responsibility to Protect" official, part-time and unpaid because the office was not agreed to by the General Assembly.)
  None of this is to say that Power is not an interesting person -- but it is not because of her ghostwritten tweets or quotes from Ed Luck.
  Still, the Times snow-file was quickly re-tweeted by, for example, the 2013 president of the UN Correspondents Association Pamela Falk of CBS, complete with the handles of the US State Department as it to say: see? I am doing my job! 
  Under Falk, UNCA in July hosted a faux UN briefing by Saudi-sponsored Syria rebel box Ahmad al Jarba. Also re-tweeting was UNCA former big wig Margaret Besheer ofVoice of America, on whose Broadcasting Board of Governor sits John Kerry, also Power's boss.
UNCA first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters tweeted that "Syria's Assad slams Western powers on UN draft resolution;" but a scribe working for him wrote "Syria's Assad says not concerned about UN draft resolution" -- both based off the same interview (not with Reuters, but Chinese television: lost in translation?) 
  This is the UN and how it's covered; these are the scribe to which the UN and US Mission most like to give access. And no, Samantha Power was not interviewed for this article -- Inner City Press didn't ask. Watch this site.