"This letter ... acts similar to a correction"

1097250162 s1qdaq78jk7 sackconst 01We have an end to the saga of GetReligion's request for a correction on that April 9 feature story in The Washington Post, the one that ran with the headline "In Turkey, a Deep Suspicion of Missionaries -- Priest's Killing Shows Complex Ties of Islam to Nationalism in Officially Secular State." This is one of those good news-bad news situations. The Post has said "no" and has not formally admitted an error. But, as you will see, it has admitted that some people -- or at least one -- thinks that it made an error.

Here is the latest epistle from the foreign desk:

Hello Professor Mattingly,

Thank you for you patience regarding our lengthy review of your request for a correction on Karl Vick's April 9 article, "In Turkey, a Deep Suspicion of Missionaries." After speaking with Mr. Vick, we have decided not to publish a correction. The reason for this decision is based on a "Letter to the Editor" that was published on the Editorial Page on May 6, 2006. This letter, titled "This Battle Wasn't Over Islam," addresses the very same complaints that you have discussed with me and acts similar to a correction. ... Thanks for your understanding and for contacting us regarding our coverage. If you have any other inquiries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us again.

I must confess that I did not think to do an online search for a letter to the editor. It is also interesting that the copy desk did not recall the letter, either. I consider this a rather honorable way out of the argument, from the newspaper's point of view.

As a reporter and columnist, I know that "corrections" carry more weight than letters. Still, it's a good letter and makes the key point. Thank you, Kenneth Bernstein of Arlington, Va.

This Battle Wasn't Over Islam

Saturday, May 6, 2006; A15

In his April 9 article, "In Turkey, a Deep Suspicion of Missionaries," Karl Vick wrote, "The tension dates at least to the 13th century, when Christian Crusaders sacked what is today Istanbul." This statement presents a very inaccurate picture.

There was a sack by Crusaders, but it had no direct connection with Islam.

The sack by the knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 was of the Byzantine city of Constantinople. The sack may well have been at the instigation of the Venetians who transported the knights, because Constantinople was a major commercial rival of Venice.

Islam enters the picture with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks under Mehmed II on May 29, 1453. Some argue that the city had been irrevocably weakened by the sacking and plundering of the Fourth Crusade, but whatever destruction then occurred was that of Christian upon Christian. And while the city suffered during the siege before its 15th-century fall and in the first few days after the conquest, there is no element of this being an issue that could inflame attitudes toward Christian missionaries.

-- Kenneth Bernstein Arlington

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