Najaf Estimates Split along Liberal/Conservative Reliable/Unreliable Divide

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Jonathan blogged on Monday about the disturbingly wide range of estimates of the number of Iraqis who attended an anti-American rally in Najaf that day. Dutiful wonks at ThinkProgress, to the rescue! ThinkProgress points out that credible sources like The New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, AP, and the Wall Street Journal all put attendance in the “tens of thousands” (which, at least according to strict Mother Jones rules, means at least 20,000). Mother Jones also reports, in our Iraq 101 package, that Muqtada al-Sadr, who called for the rally, has “tens of thousands” of followers. The military, however, put attendance at 5,000-7,000, and conservative bloggers jumped on that figure.

ThinkProgress claims that a photo used to support lower estimates is, in fact, cropped. Check it out: It sure looks cropped.

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ThinkProgress then shows another photo, of a side road not included in the allegedly cropped photo.

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Problem is, neither of these photos have credible sources. The conservative blog Gateway Pundit, in a post including the photo in question, claims ThinkProgress’s photo was taken before its photo, and therefore may well show some of the same people, not additional attendees as it claims. I’m gonna say touché on that one, but ThinkProgress has a solid record—and when you pair it with The New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, AP, and the Wall Street Journal and, ahem, Mother Jones, its reliability veritably trounces Gateway Pundit’s. One caveat: It does seem a little bit odd that all the sources have used precisely the same wording in providing their estimates—but this is Iraq, and it’s not like the Park Service is out there counting.

As for why Mother Jones believes papers of record and not the military, see below.

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We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

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