Flight 800: Accident Or Terrorist
Attack? Part 7
Newsletter AIMs To Rein In The Media
Christine Moeser for Suffolk Life Newspapers
December 18, 1998
The majority of financial backing for a study, claiming TWA Flight 800 was likely destroyed by a missile, comes from the sometimes controversial group, Accuracy in Media (AIM). AIM centers around the beliefs of its founder, Reed Irvine, an economist who at one point worked for the federal government. Its headquarters is located in an office building suite in Washington, D.C. According to Irvine, it is continuously searching for the inaccuracies and misinformation that many news organizations have reported, helping to distort the truth and ignore their obligation to include all the facts.
"Many times, journalists report on issues incorrectly," Irvine stated. For the past 29 years, "Its our job here to bring these facts to light." Twice a month, he publishes a newsletter called the AIM Report, which is distributed to 1,000 readers who pay a $15 per year membership fee. While he admits members rarely include media professionals, he characterizes a typical AIM reader as highly intelligent and having a vast interest in current events. "Because we dont write down to readers, and the articles tend to be lengthy, subscribers must have a serious commitment to the world around us," Irvine said. "I couldnšt see an unintelligent hermit reading our reports." FLIGHT 800 JUST ONE ISSUE While he attempts to cover a wide range of issues, he plans to update this past Junes newsletter, which criticized the medias coverage of the investigation of TWA Flight 800.
Specifically referring to ABCs "PrimeTime Live" program entitled "The Mystery of Flight 800," Irvine accused the media of having a passive approach, and "helping the government try to convince the public that the cause of the tragedy was some unexplained flaw in the Boeing 747." During the program, Bernard Loeb, director of Aviation Safety of the National Transportation Safety Board, said Flight 800 was destroyed by an explosion in its nearly empty center wing fuel tank. What PrimeTime failed to report, Irvine says, is the evidence Commander William Donaldson has produced proving this theory to be wrong. Donaldson is a retired Navy attack pilot who spent most of his career as a crash investigator. He is an AIM member who has been conducting an independent investigation, which is funded by AIM. The result of Donaldsonšs on-going investigation alludes to one or more missiles causing the plane to go down, and a possible FBI cover-up. "Journalists who have accepted the official claims that there is no evidence that a missile downed FL800 have not critically examined the evidence," Irvine wrote in his newsletter.
"There are no test results that support the NTSB hypothesis." FROM A RADICAL TO A WATCHDOG Once a "radical," he said the main purpose of AIM is to correct inaccuracies within the media, and to ensure the public is informed from all sides. He formed the organization because of his irritation with the misinformation within newspapers and television news programs. As an economist with the Federal Reserve System in Washington, Irvine joined a luncheon club where conservatives would gather and discuss current affairs. From those conversations, he saw a need to form an organization whose main objective would be to keep mainstream media in line. In 1969, with the help of a millionaire friend, AIM was founded. "We felt the media was misbehaving and causing a lot of grief," he recalls. "By 1972, we began printing a newsletter focusing on factual errors made throughout the media." The organization grew and became more vocal in the intervening years. Many journalists and editors have criticized Irvine, accusing him of using AIM as a way to channel his own philosophical and conservative beliefs.
CRITICIZED JOURNALISTS DEFEND THEMSELVES
Sydney Schanberg, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Cambodia when he was a correspondent for the New York Times, accused Irvine in a Newsday interview of publishing fabricated, distorted accounts of that coverage. Irvine claimed he was being "soft on communism." "Išve considered what he did, with respect to my work, scurrilous," Schanberg said. "Išve never seen any document or statement of his where the facts were accurate. The very name Accuracy in Media is a misnomer.
Itšs not about accuracy, and itšs not about the media. Its about ideology." Irvine critiqued another New York Times reporter in his newsletter, by saying Raymond Bonneršs coverage of Central America was supporting communism. He described his articles as "worth a division to the communists in Central America."
While Bonner was reassigned to the metropolitan desk not long after Irvinešs claim, he denied in various news interviews his new position was prompted by AIMšs diatribe. "The point is that here is somebody who purports to monitor the press," Bonner stated. "But as far as I know, he never calls anyone for comment. I think he is irresponsible." To his critics, Irvine says his only interest is in correcting factual errors, and he will call upon any journalist who does not do the same. Emphasizing the publics right to be informed, he believes it is the Medias job to present all the facts in an unbiased format. Unlike fiction writers, journalists should not pick and choose facts as they see fit. "Everyone, even those in the media, are entitled to their opinions," Irvine said. "But when youšre reporting to the public, the coverage should remain untainted, so that the public can judge for themselves." Reprinted with the permission of Suffolk Life NewspapersRiverhead, New York Tel: 516-369-0800