ProPublica Scrambles to Check Translation in COVID Origin Story

Speaking of ProPublica, it appears the publication is struggling with its own trustworthiness problems after fallout from a scandalous story claiming a “research-related incident” was responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Max Tani, Semafor:

The ProPublica/Vanity Fair article relied on Toy Reid, a State Department China analyst whose close readings of Chinese Communist Party documents apparently unveiled revelations that all other observers had missed.

“Party speak is ‘its own lexicon, Reid explained in the piece, cautioning that even native Mandarin speakers might not understand it. “It’s almost like a secret language of Chinese officialdom. When they’re talking about anything potentially embarrassing, they speak of it in innuendo and hushed tones.”

But Reid’s “party speak” interpretations, quickly came under scrutiny from some journalists and experts on China, including many native Mandarin speakers, who said the story was based on a mistranslation.

Readers of the ProPublicaVanity Fair investigation and at least one of their own sources are disputing the very substance of the story. In the last month, four separate publications — the Wire, the Intercept, and this joint effort — have released bombshell articles with glaring problems. We need a better calibre of scoops and reporting.

Update: Ryan Grim, DC bureau chief for the Intercept, begged in his newsletter for these issues and questions to not be cast along partisan lines. That is something I am entirely in agreement with.