At the University of California Berkeley, Iraq correspondents discussed the controversy over whether or not journalists can provide an accurate picture of the situation in Iraq.
Those in attendance: Anna Badkhen of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackie Spinner of the Washington Post, John Burns of the New York Times and Mark Danner, a Berkeley journalism professor and contributor to The New York Review of Books.
Jackie Spinner, Washington Post staff writer and author of "Tell Them I Didn't Cry," an account of a year spent in Baghdad starting in May 2004, disagreed that reporters in Iraq are prevented from telling both sides. "I think we're getting 90 percent of the story," she said. When disbelieving guffaws rang out from the audience, she retorted, "Excuse me, have you been there?" She went on to explain how when Washington Post reporters can't go out, "we rely on this whole cadre of Iraqi stringers and translators, who in the case of the Washington Post are Post-trained journalists."
Those skeptical of this reliance should take the time to read Spinner's book, which describes in detail the tight bond between the Post's Baghdad correspondents and the Iraqis who risk their lives to work for the bureau, often keeping their jobs a secret even from family members lest the insurgents kill them in retaliation. Before the situation in Iraq turned even more dangerous, Spinner — a UC Berkeley journalism alumna — would dress in a headscarf and full-length abaya and ride to the scene of an incident. There she would wait while her translator brought her an Iraqi who she could interview inside the tinted windows of the car. Later, she could not always go herself, but would be in constant contact with the Iraqi staff, guiding what questions they asked and pressing for details of the source's mannerisms, hesitations, and context.
In his Monday “Grapevine” segment, FNC's Brit Hume relayed how “in an interview with TV host Bill Maher over the weekend,” New York Times Baghdad Bureau Chief John Burns “remained pessimistic, but also said that now, quote, 'U.S. military and diplomatic leadership in Iraq is about as good as you could possibly get,' end quote, and he said the U.S. team there has, quote, 'got the formula more or less right.'” But, Hume lamented, “by the time the trade publication Editor & Publisher had edited and published the Burns interview, you wouldn't have known any of that. The magazine ignored it all, instead leading with the fact that Burns, it claimed, was for the first time predicting U.S. 'failure.'" Indeed, the headline over the story by E&P Editor Greg Mitchell proclaimed, “John Burns, Back from Baghdad: U.S. Effort In Iraq Will Likely Fail.” (Transcripts of Hume and Burns, as well as an excerpt from the E&P article, follow.)
Tom Fox, a member of the anti-American Christian Peacekeeper Teams, has been
murdered by terrorists in Iraq who held him hostage for more than three months,
the New York Times reported on Saturday.
the paper carried a follow-up report that Fox "had apparently been tortured
by his captors before being shot multiple times in the head and dumped on a
trash heap next to a railway line in western Baghdad."
The New York Times Sunday magazine examines Democratic aspirations to take back the House and Senate this year in liberal contributing writer James Traub’s “Party Like It’s 1994.” But 12 years after the fact, the Times and Traub still see the 1994 watershed through the conventional liberal wisdom of the time, as an anti-incumbent blast of anger that didn’t augur a nationwide shift to conservatism.
“Nineteen ninety-four was arguably the most consequential nonpresidential election of the 20th century. The Republicans shocked political professionals, including President Bill Clinton, by gaining 52 seats in the House, giving them a majority there for the first time in 40 years. (They picked up eight seats in the Senate to wrest control there as well.) What immense forces suddenly burst through the earth's crust that fall? Anger, for one. Pollsters found an electorate utterly disgusted with politics and politicians. In 1992, 80 percent of poll respondents said they believed that government favored the rich and powerful, while two-thirds agreed that ‘quite a few’ national politicians were corrupt. Neither party had anything like a Jack Abramoff scandal; but the sense of drift, of futility, was very deep.”
A new law in South Dakota outlawing most abortions is the apparent trigger for Friday’s laudatory New York Times “Public Lives” profile by Robin Finn of new Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards (“Anti-Abortion Advocates? Bring ‘Em On, Texan Says”).
Adhering to common practice for the liberally slanted “Public Lives,” Finn portrays Richards as a heroine battling ruthless and vindictive forces.
While CBS has its guru Michael "Clinton Rocks" O'Hanlon, ABC's "Good Morning America" today used another current hot morning pundit in New York Times columnist Thomas "In the Tank for Ethanol" Friedman. MRC's Brian Boyd noticed that when asked how Iran could punish America, Friedman grew positively giddy thinking about the whopping economic depression they could give us:
Charles Gibson: "When Iran threatens harm and pain what can they do necessarily? I mean, are they talking about restricting oil sales and cutting off oil and perhaps driving the price of oil up? Are they talking about causing more problems in Iraq for the United States, what?"
Is only positive news about American Muslims fit to highlight?
After issuing this week a massive three-part series with a glowing portrait of the imam of a Brooklyn mosque (while glossing over his sympathies for the terrorist group Hamas), Wednesday's Times buries on page 18 attempted murder by a radical Islamist looking for revenge against Americans.
Brenda Goodman’s “Defendant Offers Details Of Jeep Attack at University,” details what happened on the campus of the University of North Carolina but, like the headline, leaves off some pertinent data.
I'm trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.
Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view's clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn't give me the right skills....
In place of the civil war that elements in our media declared, I saw full streets, open shops, traffic jams, donkey carts, Muslim holiday flags - and children everywhere, waving as our Humvees passed. Even the clouds of dust we stirred up didn't deter them. And the presence of children in the streets is the best possible indicator of a low threat level.
“Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in Its Public Relations Campaign," by Michael Barbaro in Tuesday's New York Times, concerns the discount giant feeding newsbits to bloggers to help its public relations. It tops Tuesday’s business pages, complete with the banner of a pro-Wal-Mart blog that's Barbaro’s main target. Yet Barbaro himself cowrote a story last month based on tips from an anti-Wal-Mart website.
“Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
Have a great weekend, Democrats: Sen. Hillary Clinton has a “widely respected record,” Republican “attacks” are backfiring, and she’s still no liberal.
Friday’s front page is dominated by Patrick Healy’s “Clinton Challenger Pulled From Reagan-Era Hat,” on the newest Republican candidate challenging Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Senate this year.
Sen. Clinton’s opponent, whoever it turns out to be, is in for an uphill battle. But the Times doesn’t give Kathleen T. McFarland any shot at all (check out that dismissive headline, which seethes with a sense of Republican flop-sweat). Her name isn’t even mentioned until the fifth paragraph.
According to the report, the Times newsroom is currently 82.5 percent white, slightly less than the industry average of 86.5 percent. Only 14 percent of newsroom managers are minorities, the council found, and there are currently no minorities on the newspaper masthead and only one nonwhite on the company's executive committee.
It apparently isn't just George Bush who doesn't care about black people.
My personal favorite part of the article:
The council defined diversity in terms of employees' race, gender and sexual orientation. Religious and political differences were not accounted for.
What issue will doom Congressional Republicans in 2006? In February, it was Abramoff, while the month of March is shaping up as the UAE ports controversy.
This morning, the Times once again insists that the Republicans will face trouble in the 2006 elections. Last month it was ethics scandals and Jack Abramoff. This month’s Times-selected Republican killer is shaping up to be the ports deal with United Arab Emirates.
A story by Carl Hulse and Scott Shane, “Doubts Back Home Fuel G.O.P. Worries About Ports Deal,” drives that idea hard.
“Senator Jon Kyl, a staunch supporter of President Bush who faces a potentially difficult re-election fight this year, is hearing a lot from constituents in Arizona about the plan to allow a Dubai company to operate shipping terminals at Eastern ports. Most think the deal should be stopped.”
Americans who read the New York
Times must have wrinkled their brows in puzzlement after reading the
February 26, 2006 article about a former government official and
spokesman for the Taliban walking the campus of Yale University as a
Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi has been granted special student status and
the state department has awarded him entry into the United States on
a student visa. This is an interesting turn of events for a person
who could just as easily have ended up as a guest of the United
States in a cell at Guantanamo Bay.
Prior to his arrival as a student, Rahmatullah had been imprisoned at
Bagram Air Base. He had been a member of the Taliban government,
serving both in Afghanistan and in the United States as Second
Foreign Secretary and Ambassador-at-Large.
Is it just coincidence? Barely a week after new media from Rush Limbaugh [subscripton required] to this column found the Today show appearance of NY Times foreign-affairs maven Thomas Friedman noteworthy, Today had him back again this morning. Could the new media be driving news choices at the antique?
In any case, while the ostensible purpose of Friedman's appearance was to discuss President Bush's current trip to India, his most interesting comments came in relation to Iraq and by extension to the entire Middle East. His notion: the path from dictatorship to democracy in the region necessarily passes through a period of fundamentalist religious rule.
Wednesday’s Early Show on CBS carried a segment on Iraq emblazoned with the headline “Iraq Civil War.” The worry that Iraq is about to tip over into an all-out fight between the Sunnis and the Shiites has been thick in the media since terrorists bombed an important Shiite mosque a week ago. As CBS anchor Bob Schieffer announced that night (February 22): “One of the worst days ever in Iraq, and it’s Iraqis against Iraqis. A Middle East expert tells us the country has been plunged into civil war.”
But while there’s been a definite uptick in violence and death in the week since the mosque bombing, the “civil war” scenario has failed to materialize. On FNC’s Your World with Neil Cavuto earlier this afternoon, a panel discussed whether notions of an imminent Iraq “civil war” are a grim reality, or a media myth. Former CBS and NBC reporter Marvin Kalb spoke for the rest of the liberal establishment: "What is going on in Iraq now is deadly, serious stuff. People are dying there....This is not a myth. This is what is happening and the American people deserve to know the truth.”
Well, if Iraq’s future matches the current prognostications from the liberal media, it’s purely a matter of coincidence. Pessimistic media mavens have been fretting about a “civil war” since shortly after the coalition liberated Baghdad in April 2003. A brief review:
Much is being made about the Zogby poll released today that allegedly shows a mutiny of the military in Iraq. Nicholas Kristof has a hard time containing his excitement in The New York Times:
A poll to be released today shows that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq — and soon.
Editor & Publisher then jumps on the bandwagon and trumpets Kristof's declaration with the headline:
Kristof: Poll Finds U.S. Troops in Iraq Urge Pullout
Overwhelminglywant out soon? Urge pullout? Sounds like a pretty strong indictment on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. But things may not actually be as they appear... or as Kristof and the Democrats want them to appear.
According to the article by Louis Uchitelle and Megan Thee, even most of this biased sample of Americans is against raising the gas tax, but the Times helpfully tested different ways that money-hungry politicians might be able to talk them into it:
Or, to be accurate, the “right-wing bias” that the Los Angeles Times apparently held before the “provincial” paper moved to the left and garnered “respect.”
NY Times Obituary writer Jonathan Kandell remembers Los Angeles Times Publisher Otis Chandler in Tuesday's edition.
“Otis Chandler, who inherited The Los Angeles Times from his parents and then, as its publisher, transformed it into one of the most respected, widely read and profitable newspapers in the United States, died yesterday at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 78 years old.”
Kandell discovers political bias in the media, as Chandler guided the paper from "right-wing bias" to respectability.
Last Wednesday, sports columnist Harvey Araton wrote about the Olympian feud between U.S. speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis, with Hedrick starring as Bush and Davis as John Kerry:
“…at the root of the conflict is Davis's belief that Hedrick has been attempting to swift boat him here at the Olympics, use him as a prop as he wraps himself, Texas-style, in the flag, for the purpose of increasing his commercial appeal, while claiming that the feud has elevated their skating and is good for the sport.”
Araton, of course, took Davis’s side.
Araton, who posts his email address with his column, relies on an unexpected surge in reader feedback to fill his Saturday follow-up on the Hedrick-Davis imbroglio.
Ken Herman of Cox Newspapers, quoted in The New York Times today about cameras in the White House briefing room:
"I don't like them seeing me do my job; I want them to
see the end result," he said of the public's looking over his shoulder in
the briefing room. "It's perfectly possible to be obnoxious and contentious
in there and produce an objective print story, but the image is so
overwhelmingly negative, and some of our TV brethren are very good at the
Yes, it's perfectly possible, it's just not probable, from my years of analyzing media bias. Terry Moran and David Gregory, for example, are just as biased in the finished product as their belligerent barrages of questioning in press briefings would suggest. And for the life of me I cannot recall a single instance where Helen Thomas has tried to elicit information from Ari Fleischer or Scott McClellan that was relevant to reporting a news story.
I also have a hard time believing that minority leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) orSen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would face the same intense questions from the press were congressional news conferences as widely televised as the White House briefings.
For the second time in two days, Mideast expert and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has taken a position in agreement with the Bush administration, and contrary to his bosses. You have to wonder how long Friedman can get away with this and continue to keep his job.
As reported by NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein, Friedman was on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday suggesting that the increase in violence in Iraq of late might be an indication that al Qaeda knows it’s losing. In addition, he intimated that the absence of follow-up terrorist attacks on America since 9/11 is likely due to al Qaeda’s focus on winning the war in Iraq.
Now, one day later, Friedman wrote an op-ed wherein he, for the second day in a row, appeared to be supporting the Bush administration on the recent controversy surrounding DP World:
Reporting on a fresh development in the Fannie Mae accounting scandals, the media again dropped another opportunity to raise the Clinton administration connections. But when it was Enron which defrauded investors, the media wouldn't let the public forget the connections Enron executives had to President Bush.
After Enron’s collapse, the media frequently reminded the public of political ties top executives in the failed energy company had to the Bush administration. The same standard, however, wasn’t applied to mortgage broker Fannie Mae (FNM), whose former CEO served in the Clinton White House and was speculated to be on presidential hopeful John Kerry’s short list for Treasury secretary. The print media continued that double standard in covering a comprehensive new report on the scandal released February 23 by former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.).
Sports columnist Harvey Araton ventured onto thin ice with an anti-Bush metaphor on Wednesday while relaying the simmering feud between Olympic speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis:
“And at the root of the conflict is Davis's belief that Hedrick has been attempting to swift boat him here at the Olympics, use him as a prop as he wraps himself, Texas-style, in the flag, for the purpose of increasing his commercial appeal, while claiming that the feud has elevated their skating and is good for the sport.”
To translate Araton's esoteric comparison: Hedrick is President Bush (they both hail from Texas, you see), and Davis is a stand-in for John Kerry, unfairly attacked by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. We think.
NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman is for many the voice of the center-left foreign policy establishment in the U.S. So much so that, in introducing him this morning, GMA host Charlies Gibson declared that Friedman's latest book should be required reading. Given Friedman's status, his nuanced and not-altogether-bleak assessment of the situation in Iraq on this morning's GMA merits consideration.
It was tempting to headline this entry with the provocative notion Friedman floated that perhaps only a Saddam was capable of holding Iraq's fractious components together. But Friedman was by no means endorsing Saddam's despotic rule, musing rather whether Saddam was a cause or an effect. As Friedman put it:
The Times finds the burgeoning property rights movement (set in motion by the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo vs. New London upholding a broad interpretation of eminent domain) worthy of a Tuesday front-page story by John Broder, “States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes.”
That negative headline reads as if the paper takes for granted that overturning property rights is something a government has a right to do, a “right” that’s now at risk of being “curbed.”
As Matt Welch noted in Reason Magazine after the eminent domain decision was handed down, the Times editorial page was one of the few and definitely the most enthusiastic supporters of the 5-4 decision upholding a Connecticut town’s right to condemn private homes to make way for private development. The chilly title of the Times editorial: “The Limits of Property Rights.”
In an attempt to keep the New York Times-imposed NSA kerfluffle on somebody's radar screen, a rehash of the situation ran today in the paper's Washington section. The lede is particularly interesting, since it gets it wrong right out of the gate:
After two months of insisting that President Bush did not need court approval to authorize the wiretapping of calls between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, the administration is trying to resist pressure for judicial review while pushing for retroactive Congressional approval of the program.
Well, that certainly is news to everyone. The Presidency has never been required to obtain court orders to wiretap those communicating out of or into the country. I don't know what legal standard the New York Times thinks it is citing here (none is cited in the article), but the argument the paper was trying to make about two weeks ago was that he needed court orders to monitor domestic-to-domestic communications. Nobody, including the President, has disputed that. So exactly what premise is the lede attempting to set up? That the President has to get Congressional oversight (despite breifing the Senate Intel Committee dozens upon dozens of times since 9-11-01) to excercise the executive branch's Constitutionally granted authority to monitor international communications with terrorists?
The front page of the Times Sunday Business section is dominated by reporter Landon Thomas Jr.’s profile of conspiracy-mongering author John Perkins (“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man).”
In “Confessing to the Converted -- How a Book Tries to Tap Into Fears of ‘Corporatocracy,” Thomas begins:
“It is standing room only in Transitions, a New Age bookstore in Chicago, and John M. Perkins, the author of ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,’ is describing to his audience the quandary that faces Evo Morales, the recently elected president of Bolivia. Leaning low into the microphone, Mr. Perkins affects a deep conspiratorial whisper as he sets the scene for the imagined encounter between the new president and the representative of the multinational corporate interests Mr. Morales had vilified during his campaign.”
Could the Nazis take over America? It’s one thing for the ridiculously incendiary notion to be raised in a major magazine by an aging Hollywood lefty.
It’s quite another for it to be raised by writers for the most powerful newspaper in the world. Twice. In the same edition. I don’t know if The New York Times film reviewers Stephen Holden and Caryn James share notes or simply a distain for the Bush administration, but the each managed to link the administration to Hitler’s Nazis in articles appearing on the front page of the “Arts” section.
Last week, the New York Times haughtily washed its hands of the controversial Mohammad cartoons, saying it had no intention of printing them because it was the paper’s policy to avoid “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols.” (Though that didn't prevent the paper from running a photo of "The Virgin Mary" painting clotted with elephant dung). Besides, the editorial sniffed, “the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
But while the Times may have passed on defending free expression in order to avoid protests from Muslims, it’s apparently not concerned about stoking Muslim opinion against the United States and the war in Iraq, judging by its decision today to run a three-year-old photo of a prisoner at Abu Ghraib.