Sunday, July 11, 2004

Blogging and the coverage in Iraq 

U.S. News and World Report has a column by John Leo that discusses the impact of blogging on the coverage of Iraq by the major news media. Exhibit A, according to Leo, is the abject failure of the Western press to cover Bremer's departure from Iraq:
On June 28, Paul Bremer gave a farewell speech as he stepped down as U.S. administrator in Iraq....

Word that Bremer actually gave the speech is something of a collector's item among American reporters. The Washington Post said Bremer left without giving a talk. The Los Angeles Times did worse. It missed the speech, then insulted Bremer for not giving it. A July 4 Times "news analysis" said: "L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator for Iraq, left without even giving a final speech to the country--almost as if he were afraid to look in the eye the people he had ruled for more than a year." This is a good one-sentence example of what readers object to in much Iraq reporting--dubious or wrong information combined with a heavy load of attitude from the reporter.

So how do we know about the speech? Well, anybody who reads this or any other center-right blog knows that we know this (hey, a "known known"!) thanks to the spot-on reporting of Iraq the Model, long featured on the blogroll of TigerHawk and, according to Technorati, linked to from more than 680 other places on the Web. As Leo points out, "[o]ne blogger wrote: 'Bremer's farewell address had been common knowledge among readers of Internet blogs since at least June 30,' four days before the Times criticized Bremer for having given no speech."

Of course, Leo is a bit lame himself. Not only did he fail to attribute his "one blogger" quotation, but he admits that he had not heard of Iraq the Model either. Hmmm.

That the national press corps, and editors in particular, are so manifestly ignorant of the blogosphere betrays their insularity and, dare I say it, constitutes a failure of professionalism. Sure, it isn't reasonable to expect busy people to read 80 blogs a day, but you really don't have to do that. If you spin through three of four big linkers like Instapundit and Atrios and follow their links you will get the really obvious stuff - like Bremer's speech - and thereby innoculate yourself against the possibility that you will look like a total fool.

Of course, if you are an editor of either coastal Times, you live in your own little world where you do not know anybody who would vote for Bush 43 or enlist in the Army or set off firecrackers or go to a monster truck rally, and you don't read Iraqi bloggers either. So you do not even realize you look like a total fool, since nobody you run in to at the next celebrity fundraiser will embarrass you by asking how it was that the vaunted Los Angeles Times got scooped by Ali Fadhil, who gets 6,500 readers a day, without even knowing it.

UPDATE: USS Neverdock points out a doozy of a correction by The New York Times:
An article last Sunday about surprises in politics referred incorrectly to the turkey carried by President Bush during his unannounced visit to American troops in Baghdad over Thanksgiving. It was real, not fake.

Now, the entire aware world knows that the turkey was real, albeit not intended for the troops to eat. The myth of the "fake turkey" survives only in the world of the Bush-haters, yet Richard Berke and his editor managed to republish the "fake" turkey canard (pun intended) eight months after it had been discredited. Since it takes deliberate effort to write such a reference into a story, did they do it on purpose, or have they so completely inculcated the oral traditions of their social circles that they did not even bother to Google "Bush turkey Iraq"?


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