In 2006, the Associated Press ran a story about six Sunnis who were doused with kerosene and burned alive while nearby Iraqi soldiers watched and did nothing. The source for the story was identified as Captain Jamil Hussein of the Iraqi police force. The story received wide coverage and was even cited by NBC news as the tipping point that led them to begin referring to the war in Iraq as a civil war.
Digging by bloggers (in particular Curt at Flopping Aces) revealed that not only was the story not substantiated, nor could a “Captain Jamil Hussein” be found, but that the AP had cited Captain Jamil Hussein as the source for more than 60 other stories, most about Sunni on Shia violence. Eventually, in reaction to questions from bloggers, much of the “Sunni burning six” story was retracted and “Captain Jamil Hussein” was eventually determined to be a pseudonym. I wondered how the untrue story got reported as widely as it did, considering the suspicion surrounding the source from the very beginning. I looked for some type of online archive in which suspicious stories and sources were tracked and I was unable to find anything. In order to find previous similar stories it was necessary to search many different major and new media sources to piece together a full picture. There were already some excellent sites tracking media bias, but no one site archiving information about stories that had been found to be inaccurate or untrue.
I tossed around the idea for such an archive with some of my blogger friends and a few liked the idea and suggested the site be in wiki format so that many contributors could post there as new information became available. The result is the Media Mythbuster wiki.
Media Mythbusters is a place for approved contributors to archive facts and links to chronicle major journalism’s treatment of stories in which questions have arisen regarding facts or methods of reporting. Because the site is a wiki, it will always be a work in progress. Some of the listed entries consist of just a framework awaiting content to come, while others are already quite extensive. We have provided a format and some intitial posted items to serve as the beginning of a site I hope will grow considerably into a valuable resource.