Since Ronald Reagan turned it into a bloodsport, most journalists in this country are routinely assumed to carry a liberal media bias (“Guilty!”). One place you'll often see that bandied about is in the Orange County Register–not directed at its own fleet of word monkeys, oh no, no, no, but journos anywhere and everywhere else.
The way the old saw goes is most reporters cannot be trusted to report The Truth because they harbor biases that slant The Truth a certain way.
Which is why we were tickled pink to read the big headline at the top of the print edition of today's Reg:
Troops face charges: Evidence could connect 8 U.S. soldiers to slaying of unarmed Iraqi civilian.
(In the interest of truthiness, you'll notice that the same headline is flushed out in on page 8 and the web version as “Area troops face murder counts: Eight Pendleton men could be sented to death in the killing of an unarmed Iraqi.”) But you may look at the Page 1 print version and think it seems honest and straight-forward enough. But compare it with the lead paragraph on the front page:
Seven Camp Pendleton-based Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi man. A senior Pentagon official has said evidence indicates troops were looking for an insurgent in Hamdania, west of Baghdad, and failing to find him, grabbed an unarmed man from his home and shot him.
You're wondering what the problem is (besides the alleged heinous crime), aren't you? It is not with the unattributed lead paragraph; you must go back to the headline. The eight soldiers are not facing charges, they have been charged. They've been facing charges since this story first broke many days ago.
Okay, let's say you get caught by the cops holding a smoking gun over a dead body. The cops arrest you on suspicion of homicide and ask the district attorney to charge you with murder. Before the DA goes to court to file those charges, you are facing a murder charge (or charges). The DA could also decide against filing charges, for whatever reason, but until that decision is reached you as a suspect still face charges.
By the way, the DA in our example who decided against filing the charge is obviously NOT from Orange County–unless it was an off-duty cop of GOP contributor holding the smoking gun.
We move on to the subhead: “Evidence could connect 8 U.S. soldiers to slaying of unarmed Iraqi civilian.” No, as the lead paragraph makes clear, the evidence already connects the soldiers to the slaying, according to the Pentagon. That's not to say the evidence is not wrong or that there is another explanation for it. Trust us, you'll read all about that once this case is litigated and frequently leaked by both sides to help their sides. But for now, based on what U.S. officials have willingly spilled to the media, the Hamdania 8 are charged with murder, and the evidence so far ties them to the killing. Make no mistake: everyone charges is innocent until proven guilty. But a better headline (not that it would have fit the Reggie's narrow space contraints) would have been:
U.S. charges troops: evidence connects 8 U.S. soldiers to slaying of unarmed Iraqi civilian.
Splitting hairs? Uh-no, not based on the Register's headlines concerning murder suspects who are not part of the military operation in Iraq. Two examples:
Ex-boyfriend charged in slaying: His former girlfriend had traveled to Maine from Tustin to try to gain custody of their daughter (Dec. 9, 2005)
Murder charged in baby's death: Arraignment is set for today in case where boyfriend, mother had said child had fallen (Oct. 5, 2005)
By the way, there was another more recent incident where the Reggerino said someone charged with murder “now faces charges.” It involved a federal officer who witnesses, the cops and DA say shot and killed an innocent teen in the street of a quiet Mission Viejo neighborhood.