Sunday, February 26, 2006

Meet The Press Reporter

For quite a while the Fourth Estate has acted more like they were located in the slave quarters than an equal in the idea of keeping our democracy free and open. Reporting the news has been reduced to telling the news, with personal and sometimes venomous attacks on people of differing opinions, equating them to terrorist sympathizers or enablers or accusing them of being traitors. What the press hasn't been doing, is investigative reporting. If it ain't sex, they ain't looking. Inside the US at least. Outside the US, other countries had and still have accurate and up to the minute reporting of world events. Mick Smith, the reporter who broke the Downing St. Memos is as mystified as I am by the "yes Massa" attitude of the US press corps.
Weblog - Mick Smith - Times Online: The Bullying of the Press: "But the memos were so momentous in what they told us about how Bush and Blair went to war, and just as importantly about the criminal lack of preparation for the aftermath, that they surely had to be reported.

By and large the US media decided it was old news. Not to the readers, it seems. There was of course an argument, made by most of those who defended the decisions not to publish, that the major US newspapers had already covered the way in which the administration lied to take us to war. But those reports had come from unnamed sources. The reporters themselves knew they could trust the sources, that they were copper-bottomed, and had to be anonymous because to talk openly would see them sacked or even jailed. But the readers were understandably not sure what to make of it, and when George W Bush dismissed the claims, they were more inclined to believe their president, than someone who was not even prepared to put his or her name to the allegations they were making.

But the memos were entirely different. They were documents from the heart of the British government, the Bush administration’s closest ally. They were not only “the smoking gun” that proved all the lies; they also proved the lack of planning for the aftermath; the fraudulent use of the UN to make the war legal; and – together with other evidence – the way in which the allies began the war in the summer of 2002, ramping up the allied air patrols over southern Iraq into a full-scale air war, months before they went to the UN or Congress to get backing for war.

We don’t need to go into the way the story had spread across the web by the bloggers and internet newspapers who demanded to know why the mainstream media wasn’t running the story. We know all that. But it is often difficult as a reporter to persuade the editor a story needs to be run, particularly if others are saying it is nothing new. It took time, but led by very good reporters on the Washington Post, the LA Times and the Associated Press, the memos did actually get widely reported. The Post even had me on their website answering questions on the memos.

Others still held out, continuing to claim there was nothing new in the memos. I suspect there was a large degree of arrogance among some of the journalists involved, strikingly similar to the arrogance many Europeans detect in the way that America acts under this administration. US journalists had already done the job and this was just British journalists catching up, that was the nub of it and it was clearly apparent in a piece the New York Times eventually carried on the memos. You'll note that it claims as its main point that the ninth memo, the briefing paper for that July meeting, says no decision has been made on whether to go to war. If you look at the actual text, the memo actually says no political decision has been made on what military plan to use and that the Prime Minister agreed at Crawford in April 2002 to go to war, so the British needed to "create the conditions" which would make the war legal under international law"
Heaven forbid that little detail would be widely reported. Our press has systematically underreported every important news story, scandal or illegality for the last 6 years while enthusiastically reporting at the top of the hour about the current missing blonde woman or more about the offscreen exploits of reality stars who will not be remembered by history. Our soldiers in Iraq have become no more than a grief montage in the local news. The scandal over the body armor alone should have been enough to energize the press to look for deeper graft and incompetency, just in case they had forgotten the Katrina debacle. The most important part of the Abu Ghraib torturers was Lyndie Englund's sex life and ensuing pregnancy. It was worse than a soap opera because this was actually important to the world's perception of American justice and the press fluffed out.

The excuse that the story has already been covered by another paper is so weak that it couldn't support a snowflake. Reporters are arrogant. Who doesn't think that their colleague didn't miss some important detail that could really make the story stand out or branch off into a deeper tale of intrigue?

At least he acknowledged that bloggers thought the story was important, that some of us were paying attention and trying to spread the truth.

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