Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How To Present A Broad Picture Of Iraq

From the Funny If It Weren't True department, this story. Apparently editors of newspapers across the country are puzzled at how to give a "broad picture" of the war in Iraq!

Now, I only took one journalism class in college (so I could draw cartoons for the paper...no they weren't very funny...hense one semester), so I could be wrong, but it seems pretty obvious to me that if a person who like to know what is going on someplace they would send a reporter to the scene and do REPORTING. (For those in the newspaper industry who have never seen real reporting I would direct you to this site, http://www.michaelyon.blogspot.com/ )

Another option, and I know this is going to sound crazy, would be to actually interview soldiers who have been there. I know this is a concept that may be hard for you newspaper guys to grasp, but if you actually talk to people who have been to a place or a country you are reporting on it gives depth and context to your story. Something I've noticed that most the stories about IED attacks and deaths of soldiers sorely lack.

We the reader are constantly reminded about how you the newspaper are in search of the "TRUTH". I can tell you, your AP stringer in Iraq will never find it hiding in their hotel in Baghdad. If you truly are in search of that valuable commodity you might find it at your nearest military base or if you care to go there any FOB in Iraq.

Nice to see that at about the 3.5 year mark you've finally realized that you aren't giving your readership the whole picture. Way to be on top of things! Fecking Boobs.

New York Times
August 15, 2005

Editors Ponder How To Present A Broad Picture Of Iraq

By Katharine Q. Seelye

Rosemary Goudreau, the editorial page editor of The Tampa Tribune, has received the same e-mail message a dozen times over the last year.

"Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?" the anonymous polemic asks, in part. "Did you know that 3,100 schools have been renovated?"

"Of course we didn't know!" the message concludes. "Our media doesn't tell us!"

Ms. Goudreau's newspaper, like most dailies in America, relies largely on The Associated Press for its coverage of the Iraq war. So she finally forwarded the e-mail message to Mike Silverman, managing editor of The A.P., asking if there was a way to check these assertions and to put them into context. Like many other journalists, Mr. Silverman had also received a copy of the message.

Ms. Goudreau's query prompted an unusual discussion last month in New York at a regular meeting of editors whose newspapers are members of The Associated Press. Some editors expressed concern that a kind of bunker mentality was preventing reporters in Iraq from getting out and explaining the bigger picture beyond the daily death tolls.

"The bottom-line question was, people wanted to know if we're making progress in Iraq," Ms. Goudreau said, and the A.P. articles were not helping to answer that question.

"It was uncomfortable questioning The A.P., knowing that Iraq is such a dangerous place," she said. "But there's a perception that we're not telling the whole story."

Mr. Silverman said in an interview that he was aware of that perception. "Other editors said they get calls from readers who are hearing stories from returning troops of the good things they have accomplished while there, and readers find that at odds with the generally gloomy portrayal in the papers of what's going on in Iraq," he said.

Mr. Silverman said the editors were asking for help in making sense of the situation. "I was glad to have that discussion with the editors because they have to deal with the perception that the media is emphasizing the negative," he said.

"We're there to report the good and the bad and we try to give due weight to everything going on," he said. "It is unfortunate that the explosions and shootings and fatalities and injuries on some days seem to dominate the news."

Suki Dardarian, deputy managing editor of The Seattle Times and vice president of the board of the Associated Press Managing Editors, said that the discussion was "a pretty healthy one."

"One of the things the editors felt was that as much context as you can bring, the better," Ms. Dardarian said. "They wanted them to get beyond the breaking news to 'What does this mean?' "

She also said that as Mr. Silverman and Kathleen Carroll, The A.P.'s executive editor, responded to the concerns, the editors realized that some questions were impossible to answer. For example, she said, the editors understood that it was much easier to add up the number of dead than to determine how many hospitals received power on a particular day or how many schools were built.

Mr. Silverman said the wire service was covering Iraq "as accurately as we can" while "also trying to keep our people out of harm's way."

"The main obstacle we face," he said, "is the severe limitation on our movement and our ability to get out and report. It's very confining for our staff to go into Baghdad and have to spend most of their time on the fifth floor of the Palestine Hotel," which is home to most of the press corps. The hotel was struck by a tank shell in 2003, killing two journalists.

Iraq remains the most dangerous place in the world to work as a journalist, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 13 media workers have been killed in Iraq so far this year, bringing the total to 50 since the war began in 2003.

"Postwar Iraq is fraught with risks for reporters: Banditry, gunfire and bombings are common," the committee's Web site says. "Insurgents have added a new threat by systematically targeting foreigners, including journalists, and Iraqis who work for them."

Mr. Silverman said The A.P. had already decided before the meeting that it would have Robert H. Reid, an A.P. correspondent at large who has reported frequently from Iraq, write an overview every 10 days.

Mr. Silverman also said the wire service would make more effort to flag articles that look beyond the breaking news. As it turned out, he said, most of the information in the anonymous e-mail message had been reported by The A.P., but the details had been buried in articles or the articles had been overlooked.

Before the meeting, The A.P. collected three articles by reporters for other news organizations who were embedded with American troops and sent them out over the wire to provide "more voice." Mr. Silverman said he wanted to do more of that but the opportunities were limited because there are only three dozen embedded journalists now, compared with 700 when the war began more than two years ago.

Ms. Goudreau, for one, found the discussion useful. By the end, she said, editors were acknowledging that even in their own hometowns, "we're more likely to focus on people who are killed than on the positive news out of a school."
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