Hoodgate: 'Telegraph' Spanks Journa-BloggerS

Sunday Telegraph US editor Toby Harnden better still have that badass flak jacket. He's enjoying a flurry of abuse after an article he filed about Saddam Hussein's execution appeared to describe details of the scene that never happened — particularly, Saddam wearing a hood on the gallows. After the obvious inaccuracies in the December 29 article were called out by readers, Harnden obtusely admitted on his Telegraph-sanctioned blog that the article had not been his "finest hour." This pseudo-admission of kinda-guilt inspired a bloggy uproar among the gotcha crowd, which in turn caused the Telegraph to panic and yank Harnden's blog entirely. But it appears the real culprit in this teapot-tempest might be Harnden's editors.

The Dreams and Daemons blog claims that Harnden sent them a copy of the story as originally filed. It's written in journalistic future tense, i.e. "Saddam Hussein will spend his last moments hooded" etc. The barely unstated accusation turns round on Telegraph editorial, making it seem as though they rehabbed Harnden's article into authoritative past tense, complete with inaccurate headline ("Humiliated and hooded, the tyrant faces his fate on the steel scaffold"). Rather than answer resulting questions, the Telegraph instead issued a memo instructing staff not to blog about the paper or their jobs. Unfortunate memo phraseology alert: "Think carefully before blogging about journalistic 'tricks of the trade'." It's a little gauche to file a forward-looking "this will happen thus" story just to beat a deadline, but it's naive to think yanking an "incriminating" in-house blog post looks any less contemptible than yanking the actual news story that spawned it.

Humiliated and hooded, the tyrant faces his fate on the steel scaffold [Telegraph]
Telegraph executes Saddam blog [Guardian]
What Toby Harnden actually said.... [Dreams and Daemons]
Telegraph gets tough with bloggers [Guardian]