There is something about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance in NY that seems to foster really shoddy journalism.
Several days ago, the Columbia Spectator (student paper) reported that an international relations group at Columbia had received an invitation over the summer to meet with president AN at his midtown hotel during his visit. They were excited at the prospect, though apparently no confirmation had been made on either side.
This was then transmuted into a report by Fox News that AN would visit the CU campus and attend a dinner with President Bollinger (who, it may be recalled, greeted AN in 2007 by publicly calling him a “petty dictator” and then walked out.)
Various other versions circulated on the web. Finally, after some reports clarified that (1) any meeting would not be on campus; (2) Bollinger would not be involved; and (3) the University itself had nothing to do with any of this, an Israeli paper this morning actually declared victory that AN would not be coming to the campus. Totally forgotten was the (accurate and not particularly sensational) report in the student paper.
When Ahmadinejad visits NY he routinely meets with groups of students, Iran specialists, members of the Iranian-American community, interfaith groups, and journalists, apart from his many interviews. Each year, revelations of these meetings are treated as amazing (which perhaps they are, since no other head of state takes the trouble to arrange such off-the-record meetings with private citizens) and the rumor mill on the part of supposedly professional journalists is just as active as it would be in the Tehran bazaar. This is now the seventh year of this circus, and each year it is treated as if the wheel had just been invented.
I decided two years ago that I would no longer attend these meetings — and of course I have not been invited since. But I don’t think they are evil, and they may in fact expose students and others to his particular style — for better or worse.
I am just astonished at the reactions of supposedly seasoned journalists chasing a story and willing to jump on (or invent) any rumor necessary to bump up the sensationalism.