Sep 1 2003

The ‘Sheer Genius’ of Embedded Reporting

Pentagon press policy follows a PR script

In the wars of the 1980s and ’90s, military planners placed consider­able emphasis on controlling the information that reached the American public. Journalists were excluded from the wars in Grenada and Panama until the fighting was already concluded. This in turn led to com­plaints from journalists, and in the 1990 war in Iraq, code-named Operation Desert Storm, the Pentagon adopted a “pool system” through which a hand­picked group of reporters was allowed to travel with soldiers under tightly con­trolled conditions. Between August 1990 and January 1991 only the “com­bat pools”—about 23 groups of reporters —were allowed access to military units […]

Sep 1 2003

Right Too Soon?

To media, Scott Ritter was "drinking Saddam's Kool-Aid"

Scott Ritter giving a lecture about Iraq--Photo Credit: Common Dreams

Scott Ritter, the former United Nations weapons inspector, spent the last several years telling any­one who would listen that Iraq probably did not possess any significant quantities of banned weapons. We now know that Ritter was most likely correct; U.S. forces occupying Iraq since late March have failed to find any weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi scientists interviewed since the war ended have almost unanimously agreed that all such weapons were destroyed years ago. In late July (7/24/03), former CIA Director John Deutsch told a Senate intelligence panel that it “seems increas­ingly likely” that “after 1991 in the Gulf War, […]

Sep 1 2003

From Media War Boosters, Few Apologies

Being pro-war means never having to say you're sorry

The superstar columnist George Will has an impressive vocabulary. Too bad it doesn’t include the words “I’m sorry.” Last year, Will led the media charge when a member of Congress dared to say that George W. Bush would try to deceive the public about Iraq. By now, of course, strong evidence has piled up that Bush tried and succeeded. But back in late September, when a media frenzy erupted right after Rep. Jim McDermott (D.-Wash.) appeared live from Baghdad on ABC‘s This Week program (9/29/02), what riled the punditocracy as much as anything else was McDermott’s last statement during the […]

Sep 1 2003

Guest Perspective: Inside the Cable Beast

A journalist recalls an atmosphere of ignorance and bigotry

To mark that momentous day in April when invading U.S. forces captured the Iraqi capital, my boss, second-in-command at a major cable news network, decided to buy his staff lunch. “Pizza and Salad,” he announced in an email to the newsroom, while on our air jubilant Iraqis hacked away at a statue of Saddam Hussein. The occasion? “To celebrate the fall of Baghdad.” Producers and reporters, tense after weeks of covering an action-packed military cam­paign, were delighted. As the only Arab at my network, and one of the few employees criti­cal of the war, I cringed at the thought of […]

Sep 1 2003

Don’t Follow the Money

The self-destruct provision

In All the President’s Men, Carl Woodward and Bob Bernstein’s classic account of the Watergate scandal, their secret inside source, “Deep Throat,” repeatedly told them to “follow the money.” But when it came to reporting on the debate over a Medicare prescription drug benefit, the New York Times and Washington Post repeatedly told readers not to follow the money. In article after article, readers were told that politicians were motivated by ideological conviction, rather than the desire to please rich and powerful political backers. For example, the New York Times (6/22/03) presented an overview of the Congressional debate in which […]

Sep 1 2003

Weeding the Field

Press tries to determine who should and shouldn't run for president

Ten years ago, political science professor Thomas Patterson argued in his book Out of Order that the “road to nomination” for potential U.S. presidential candidates “now runs through the newsrooms.” In particular, he asserted, “the press performs the party’s traditional role of screening potential nominees for the presidency–deciding which ones are worthy of serious consideration by the electorate and which ones can be dismissed as also-rans.” In addition, he proposed, journalists choose a “prevailing story line” around which news about candidates is framed. Patterson’s observations aptly describe current media coverage of the nine Democratic candidates for their party’s nomination. Some, […]

Sep 1 2003

The Hypocrisy of George Will

Pundit's double standards, ethical lapses seldom noted

When Republican senators filibustered President Clinton’s economic stimulus bill in 1993, columnist George Will vigorously defended the Senate rule that requires the votes of at least 60 senators, a so-called supermajority, to impose an end to debate. In a column headlined “The Framers’ Intent” (Washington Post, 4/25/93), Will praised “the right of a minority to use extended debate to obstruct Senate action” and he cheered “the generation that wrote and ratified the Constitution” for properly establishing “the Senate’s permissive tradition regarding extended debates.” Dismissing a liberal critic of the rule, Will wrote: “The Senate is not obligated to jettison one […]

Sep 1 2003

Inventing Africa

New York Times archives reveal a history of racist fabrication

When New York Times reporters such as Lloyd Garrison in the 1960s and Joseph Lelyveld in the 1980s filed news stories from Africa, editors at the Times routinely fabricated scenes and manufactured quotes for their articles. In some instances, the foreign editor colluded with the reporter to manufacture scenes that they believed would conform to the racist stereotypical biases that U.S. readers had come to expect in reports from Africa. When I brought these examples of racist journalistic concoctions to the attention of New York Times editors more than 10 years ago, I was virtually ignored. That’s why recent assertions […]