Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 Note to Readers: Apologies for the lack of an update today. My DSL modem croaked last night and I can’t do this without high-speed access. Fortunately we have some great posters in Comments and there is an excellent aggregation of news stories posted. Thanks to you all, especially ‘anonymous’ who is on a real roll, and please do what you can to keep us current until YD’s next post. In the meantime, here’s a rant – I read this story and got so steamed I had to say something about it… Our Media Sucks: Example #4,394,343,948 Here is a story from yesterday’s Washington Post about the Downing Street memo. Please take a moment to read the whole thing. It is a prime example of suckiness in reporting and well worth studying. Let’s look at the first two sentences: More than a month after its publication, the so-called Downing Street Memo remains among the top 10 most viewed articles on The Times of London site. It's not hard to see why this remarkable document, published in The Times on May 1 (and reported in this column on May 3), continues to attract reader interest around the world, especially with British Prime Minister Tony Blair visiting Washington Tuesday. Oho! Our alert reporter actually covered this story only two days after it broke! So if there was a lack of interest in the story (a claim he makes in paragraph six) it sure isn’t his fault! He brought the story to the public’s attention, didn’t he? Well, no. First off, the column’s headline was “Could Leaks Sink Tony Blair?” So right off the top readers are led to believe that it pertains only to the Brits. And indeed, the first five paragraphs are strictly about British politics. The memo is not mentioned until paragraph six, and here is what our intrepid reporter has to say about it: The story was a sensation because it was based on a "Secret and Strictly Personal" memo about a July 2002 meeting Blair had with British defense and intelligence officials in which top officials expressed doubts about the justification for attacking Iraq. According to the memo, Foreign Minister Jack Straw told those assembled that the case for war was "thin" because Saddam Hussein "was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." In an analysis written for The Times of London, the sister paper of the Sunday Times, Peter Riddell concluded that Blair didn't lie about his decision to take Britain to war "but he was less than frank about either the Government's assessment of US intentions or British preparations." Based on this “reporting” it is impossible to tell that the memo relates to discussions held in WASHINGTON where “There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” This is reporting? This is covering the story? Christ on a crutch. Granted that he includes a direct link to the memo itself, but that makes it even worse. It proves that the reporter had access to the actual document at the time he wrote his story. So - did he fail to read it? Or did he decide that documentary evidence that Bush never had any intention of pursuing a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis was just not news? Either way, this is a pathetic state of affairs for the national press of a democratic society. His present column proves the point even more thoroughly. It’s about how this story just won’t die - we pesky disrespectful lefty bloggers are keeping it alive. This is the story? Aren’t there other aspects of the case that might be more informative to explore? Shoot, we can even find a few directions for exploration in the seventh paragraph: "The White House has denied the premise of the memo, the American media have reacted slowly to it and the public generally seems indifferent to the issue or unwilling to rehash the bitter prewar debate over the reasons for the war," wrote reporters Stephen J. Hedges and Mark Silva. So I’m no national reporter but that sentence sure opens some questions in my mind. The White House denied the premise of the memo? On what grounds? Do they deny its accuracy? The British don’t. Who’s lying? Wouldn’t that be an interesting subject for a column in a national paper? Another: The media reacted slowly. Why? Who made the decisions that this wasn’t page one news and what were their motivations? Is the public really indifferent or just uninformed? How is the level of public indifference assessed? Don’t you think these questions deserve exploration? When your very own newspaper says, in an article published the very same day as your column, “Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the number of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, while two-thirds say the U.S. military there is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting -- in all three cases matching or exceeding the highest levels of pessimism yet recorded. More than four in 10 believe the U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam”, is it really plausible to report that Americans are indifferent to the causes of that war? That we are unwilling to re-examine the reasons we were given for this tragic and altogether unnecessary fiasco? Or is it that our national press is unwilling to continue the discussion? Maybe their own roles as cheerleaders and administration stenographers make them unwilling to rehash the debate. Maybe it’s well past time to open that debate again and do it right this time. Or does my opinion not count because I’m expressing it on the internet? Who you gonna believe – me or your lyin’ eyes?: President George W. Bush said Tuesday that there was "nothing farther from the truth" than allegations in a British government memorandum that his administration had decided to go to war in Iraq months before he took his case to the American people. The British document -- known as the Downing Street memo since its publication in a British newspaper --says the Bush administration considered an invasion of Iraq to be "inevitable" as early as July 2002 and that "the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy." British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met Tuesday with Bush at the White House, told reporters, "The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all." Both leaders said they viewed military action as a last resort. "Somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth," Bush said.


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