Where’s the Coverage?

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran what I believe was its first (and so far, only) story on the Oklahoma University bomber, Joel Hinrichs. However, the Journal didn’t pursue the many strange angles and still-unknown facts of that incident. Instead, the paper took the main story to be the fact that blogs (inclulding this one) have discussed and speculated about the Oklahoma bombing. The Journal’s article, which we commented on here, took a debunking approach to the story, and concluded that “none of [the] claims” that have been made about the apparent suicide of Joel Hinrichs are true.

We criticized the Journal’s story on the ground that its purported debunking failed to account for several key facts, and failed to address one possible explanation for Hinrichs’ conduct: that he was a free-lance, would-be terrorist, not affiliated with a terrorist group, who intended a mass murder but either failed to carry it out, or changed his mind.

Yesterday, we received this email from Ryan Chittum, one of the authors of the Journal’s article:

Hi, John,
In regard to your post on article I co-wrote, I wanted to clear up some misunderstandings. First of all, it was not my intention to say “there is no story here.” Obviously there was or I wouldn’t have written it.

Due to an editing snafu, the refutation of the reports could be read as coming from “Mr. Hinrichs’s family, university officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say(ing) Mr. Hinrichs suffered from depression, and the explosion was an isolated event.”

In fact, I had multiple sources refuting those facts specifically, and was not relying on the statements made about depression and it being an isolated event. As you can imagine, if we didn’t have total faith in these multiple sources we would not have said “none of these claims are true.” I can assure you there was no logical leap involved and no “effort to stifle discussion.”

You can make what you will about the actual facts of the story–they’re clearly concerning. But I can assure you the things we said were not true are in fact not true.

Ryan Chittum
The Wall Street Journal

I replied as follows:

Ryan, thanks for writing. You’re right, I did read the story as saying that the basis for knowing the various claims were untrue was the family, etc. My main point, though, was that there is a middle ground between “depressed student bent on suicide, but not a terrorist attack” and “member of a terrorist group.” The FBI has only said that there is no indication Hinrichs was affiliated with such a group. I have no reason to dispute that, but other evidence, referred to in your article, strongly suggests that he did intend a terrorist attack. Otherwise, I don’t know why he wanted to buy a load of fertilizer, or why there would be a bunch of explosives left in his apartment. This seems to me to be an extremely important point which I thought your article glossed over. You seemed to me to be endorsing the view taken by Hinrichs’s family–understandably, of course–that he didn’t intend to harm anyone but himself.

Of course, I also understand that space constraints in newspapers often result in loose ends being left hanging.

I sure would be interested to know how you know that he didn’t try to enter the stadium. I have no idea how credible the claims of those who said he did try to enter are, but this strikes me as a negative that it wouldn’t be easy to prove.

Thanks again for writing.

John H.

To which we got this answer:

Hi, John–

One thing I believe has led them…
All I can say about how it is known he didn’t try to enter the stadium is that authorities have reviewed camera footage and talked to the guards and ticket-takers, specifically the ones at Gate 6, which was where the second-hand report of someone trying to enter came from. The Gate 6 people specifically denied to authorities they ever saw anything suspicious or told anyone that they did.
Take it easy–

Which I think moves the story forward somewhat. We appreciate this cordial exchange of views with Ryan Chittum; unfortunately, it appears that Michelle Malkin had a less constructive exchange with the piece’s co-author, Joe Hagan. Michelle has a long post here that brings this story up to date and puts the Journal’s article in context. Hagan interviewed Michelle for the original article, and she talked to him on the record. However, when she called Hagan to follow up on the Journal’s piece, he refused to be quoted on the record, and, I gather, was rather abusive toward her.

In the meantime, there are still significant unanswered questions about the Oklahoma bombing, and we see little indication that mainstream news outlets are making any effort to find the answers.


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