Victory! WaPo Fixes Headline Claiming Iran Has Nuclear Weapons Program
Before and After: Washington Post Photo Gallery Headline
Last week, Just Foreign Policy initiated a campaign to get the Washington Post to correct a photo gallery headline which asserted as if it were fact the mere allegation that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Over 1500 of you wrote to the ombudsman to tell him to change the headline. Thank you to everyone who wrote in!
We are pleased to announce that the Washington Post ombudsman has looked into the matter. As a result, the publication has revised the headline from "Iran's quest to possess nuclear weapons" to "Iran's quest to possess nuclear technology," as depicted in the screenshots above. The alteration also came with a revised caption, along with an editor's note:
Intelligence shows that Iran received foreign assistance to overcome key hurdles in acquiring a nuclear weapon, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Intelligence shows that Iran received foreign assistance to overcome key hurdles in acquiring technology that could lead to a nuclear weapon, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Editors’ note: An earlier headline on this photo gallery failed to reflect debate over whether Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon.)
Thank you to Patrick B. Pexton, who serves as the Washington Post's ombudsman, for looking into this matter and taking the appropriate action. We applaud the WaPo for their public acknowledgement and correction of their error, as well as their recognition of the status of Iran's nuclear program as still uncertain.
These are great victories. This sort of "mistake" is prevalent throughout the major media. While we hope that the Washington Post will be more careful in its attributions of fact in the time to come, we now have a precedent to use when calling them and others out in their future error.
Update 12/09/11: Mr. Pexton wrote about the correction in his column, acknowledging that "the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb."