July 15, 2011

Confusing Headlines: Reporters for WSJ and Dow Jones Newswires provide different tales of Hugo Chávez's medical condition

By David Paulin

Does Kejal Vyas, who recently joined Dow Jones Newswires in Caracas, read the paper for which he sometimes writes, the Wall Street Journal? It's a question that alert Journal readers may be asking after reading a story by Vyas in Thursday's newspaper. His story contradicts reporting in last week's Journal.

In his article, "Chávez Says His Cancer Could Need Treatment," Vyas makes a seemingly questionable claim that got past his own fact-checking and the WSJ's copy editing. He wrote: "Two sources close to the president say he has colon cancer, but that hasn't been confirmed." (Emphasis added)

Well, that's an interesting statement because just last week, veteran WSJ reporters José de Córdoba and Ezequiel Minaya announced in another article ("Chávez Is Believed to Have Colon Cancer") that Chavez's cancer had, it seemed, been confirmed. They wrote: "President Hugo Chávez appears to be suffering from colon cancer, according to two people with direct knowledge of the president's condition." (Emphasis added)

Am I missing something here?

Of course, maybe the problem here is that the "two people with direct knowledge of the president's condition" are not such great and knowledgeable sources after all. Or maybe the weasel word “appears” means that de Córdoba and Minaya have in fact not confirmed what their writing suggests they have confirmed. One thing is certain: de Córdoba and Minaya probably got their asses chewed out for having failed to get a story that other media outlets had reported days earlier.

Stay tuned in the coming days for an article about media coverage of Chavez's medical condition (at this blog or The American Thinker) -- and the WSJ's sometimes problematic and even dishonest use of unnamed sources.

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