It may turn out, in this case, that the departure from normal journalistic standards did not result in inaccuracy—certainly, the picture painted by the Star-Telegram story jibes with the emerging portrait of a deeply troubled individual who was driven, at least in part, by extreme religious beliefs. It may even, in a modest way, have deepened our understanding of Hasan. Still, there’s something troubling in the paper’s choice. The shape of the current media environment means that in the wake of an event like the Fort Hood shooting, there are almost countless outlets not just for commentary but also for a sort of first-cut reporting: any moderately savvy news consumer could have found Pasha’s account of his friend’s words, or unfiltered accounts from people who claimed to witness the attack. Much of the value of traditional news organizations now lies in the ability to organize and contextualize this stream of information. But it also rests in maintaining old-fashioned rules about what’s “fit to print”—even, or especially, when they are inconvenient.
*The original version of this story misspelled Mr. Shlachter’s last name. The incorrect spelling was taken from the byline as it appeared on the McClatchy DC site, where the embedded link above leads. The byline is spelled correctly on the Star-Telegram’s version of the story.