Reuters’ Lynch article brings grief to reporter

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A West Virginia newspaper reporter yesterday accused Reuters, the British news service, of putting her byline on a story about the homecoming of Pfc. Jessica Lynch that she didn’t write.

The reporter became an object of scorn by talk-radio hosts when the Reuters dispatch appeared, and she wrote a column yesterday for her newspaper explaining that the story was not hers. The controversy is particularly acute in the West Virginia hills, where Pfc. Lynch, from the tiny town of Palestine, is a very special heroine.

Deanna Wrenn of the Charleston Daily Mail filed her story last week, at the request of Reuters, about plans for the homecoming of Pfc. Lynch, whose capture and rescue made her the most famous American soldier in the Iraq war, but when it appeared on the Reuters wire, she hardly recognized it.

Ms. Wrenn wrote about her experience with big-city journalism yesterday:

“This is from a story that Reuters news service ran this week with my byline:

“‘Jessica Lynch, the wounded Army private whose ordeal in Iraq was hyped into a media fiction of U.S. heroism, was set for an emotional homecoming on Tuesday. … Media critics say the TV cameras will not show the return of an injured soldier so much as a reality-TV drama co-produced by the U.S. government propaganda and credulous reporters.’

“Got problems with that?

“I do, especially since I didn’t write it.

“Here’s what I sent last week to Reuters, a British news agency that compiles news reports from all over the world: ‘ELIZABETH [W. Va.] — In this small county seat with just 995 residents, the girl everyone calls Jessi is a true heroine — even if reports vary about Pfc. Jessica Lynch and her ordeal in Iraq.’”

Ms. Wrenn wrote that Reuters used only a single quote from her original article.

“Apparently, when Reuters asked me last week if they could use my byline, they weren’t talking about the story I wrote for them last week. They were talking about a story I never wrote.”

“I’m not sure what reporter or editor actually wrote the story that has my byline attached. … I would like to make it abundantly clear that somebody at Reuters wrote the story, not me.”

Radio talk-show hosts and their listeners directed their anger over the Reuters article toward Ms. Wrenn.

“When I got to work Wednesday, e-mail messages were flooding my inbox calling me everything but Peter Arnett,” she wrote, referring to the former TV reporter who was fired after giving an interview to Iraqi state TV. She declined yesterday to say anything beyond what she wrote for her newspaper.

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