Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Gatekeeper of Record can't find Giuliana Sgrenea's full remarks, Beale tells us "US Gloss Masks Nerves over Iraq," and bungling the PBS story

How useless is Iraq reporting becoming in this morning's New York Times? A good example can be found in James Glanz and Dexter Filkens' "Italian Hostage Pleads on Tape for Foreigners to Leave Iraq."

In that article, the gatekeeper of record, informs readers that the hostage, Giuliana Sgrena, "spoke in both Italian and French in the videotape, which was delivered anonymously to Associated Press Television News, as she called for a pullout, and emphasized her antiwar reporting."

The next time we hear from her is this section:

"Pierre, please show the pictures of the children killed by the cluster bombs," Ms. Sgrena said in an appeal to her partner, Pierre Scolari. "I ask my family to help me. I ask everyone who has fought with me against the war and the occupation." In red letters in the upper left-hand corner of the video were the words "Mujahedeen Without Borders."

Sins of omission? Giuliana Sgrena had quite a bit to say on that tape prior to what the Times chooses to quote her on. (And possibly the two reporters included it in their story and it was cut out by an editor or editors.)

If you read Peter Popham "Kidnapped reporter shown begging for her life on Iraq video"
in The Independent, you're informed of what the Times chooses to shelter you from:

"People are dying every day, thousands of people are in prison, children, the elderly, women are raped, people die because they have nothing to eat, no electricity, no water," she said. "I beg everyone, all those who have voted with me against the war, against the occupation, please help me, these people should not suffer any more . . . Please help me, nobody should come to Iraq any more . . . not even journalists."

Those remarks? I guess the summary of "her anti-war reporting" is supposed to cover that?
It's interesting that even when reporting on the taped statements of a hostage, the Times feels the need to play gatekeeper. I'm reminded of the title of a William Greider book -- Who Will Tell the People? Apparently not the New York Times.

Jonathan Beale's "US gloss masks nerves over Iraq" is also worth reading . . . which of course means it's not a story coming from the Times. From the BBC report:

But there is no getting away from the fact that this is not the outcome President Bush would have wanted in an ideal world.
For a start the US administration would have liked interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's coalition to have done better than receive under 14% of the vote.
He was the man handpicked by the US and UN officials to lead the interim government.
He was the man more in tune with more liberal Western views.

For a laugh, read the article on Pat MItchell and PBS. The writers are John Tierney and Jaques Steinberg.

From the article (entitled "Conservatives and Rivals Press a Struggling PBS"):

In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Mitchell, 62, said she had felt no pressure, either from inside her board or outside of PBS, to step aside.
She also said she had not been personally pressured to change programming by Republicans at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides federal money to the system. But she said her programmers had worked with their counterparts at the corporation, which is led by White House appointees, in developing several new shows, including a talk show for the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson.
"They certainly want to make sure we are providing a balanced schedule," she said. "We believe we are. We check that with the people we report to - our member stations and the American public."

Two reporters for the Times "reported" this article. Apparently, that either entails ommission or just showing up and jotting down whatever you're told. It certainly doesn't require you to be aware of other reporting in the public record.

From The New Yorker's "Big Bird Flies Right" by Ken Auletta (June 7, 2004):

A year and a half ago, Pat Mitchell, the president of the Public Broadcasting System, was invited to tea at Vice-President Cheney’s house. The federal government is PBS's biggest patron, and Mitchell was happy to accept. There to greet her, on December 11, 2002, was Lynne Cheney, the Vice-President’s wife, and Michael Pack, a producer. Cheney has written a number of children's books, and Mitchell especially liked "A Is for Abigail" -- Abigail Adams -- which was subtitled "An Almanac of Amazing American Women." She knew that Pack, who had made documentaries for PBS, had ties to the Bush Administration; he had recently been nominated by George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the National Council on the Humanities.
After some pleasantries, Pack proposed a series of hour-long television programs aimed at middle-school children. Pack later explained, "We brought Pat Mitchell there to see if it was acceptable to have the Vice-President’s wife be on a show on public television." Pack said that the plan was to look "for private funding, not government funding," and he didn't know if Mrs. Cheney would be paid; no one asked whether PBS would help fund the series. Mitchell, Pack added, was "enthusiastic about the project and did not feel it was a problem."
A follow-up meeting was subsequently arranged between Pack and PBS's programming co-chief John Wilson, on January 27, 2003, at PBS’s offices, in Alexandria, Virginia. "We were trying to be sensitive to the fact that Lynne Cheney was associated with this," Wilson said. Wilson remembers the proposed title as "Lynne Cheney’s History Book." Wilson's deputy, Alyce Myatt, who has since left PBS, had a blunter reaction: "I said it was inappropriate for the second-highest-ranking public official to be requesting time on public television." Wilson confirmed this misgiving, adding, "That was one of the questions hanging over the table -- the appropriateness of a government official or spouse" appearing on public television.
Mitchell recently told me that she was never enthusiastic about the program. "I was enthusiastic about Mrs. Cheney's books, which I give to children," she said. And in the end, Mitchell said, her staff agreed that "it would be a problem having Mrs. Cheney as host." In any event, just weeks after the meeting with Wilson and Myatt, Pack was appointed senior vice-president for television programming for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which dispenses federal funding to PBS and local stations, and he recused himself from the project. His wife, Gina Pack, who now runs his company, said of the Cheney proposal, "I haven’t done too much on it for a while."

Is it normal for the president of a network to meet with the spouse of a vice president to discuss future "programming?" I don't know. I do think it's newsworthy. I do think it's worth including in an article entitled "Conservatives and Rivals Press a Struggling PBS." Considering the thrust of the article, why wasn't the topic brought up?

Skip the fluff in the Times and read the New Yorker article. You'll get actual information, such as this:
C.P.B. data show that the federal subsidy for public broadcasting amounts to a dollar and forty-two cents per citizen, while in England it is almost twenty-seven dollars and in Canada almost seventeen.

If you're wondering what you're missing on in this morning's Times -- the front page features a "news" story on the urban legends of the guy in the target practice drawing. It also features the PBS non-story. And Joe Lapointe's "League Cancels Hockey Season in Labor Battle." What are you missing if you skip this morning's Times?

As John Mellencamp once sang, "Jackie, you ain't missing nothing."