Friday, May 20, 2005

Via Douglas Jehl, NYT finally addresses the Downing Memo in a news article

With Douglas Jehl's "British Memo on U.S. Plans for Iraq War Fuels Critics," the memo the Sunday Times of London ran at the start of this month finally becomes the topic of a news story in the New York Times. (For the record, Monday, Paul Krugman discussed it in his column on the op-ed page. Though I don't focus on the op-eds in my comments, "for the record," it bears noting and linking to.)

More than two weeks after its publication in London, a previously secret British government memorandum that reported in July 2002 that President Bush had decided to "remove Saddam, through military action" is still creating a stir among administration critics. They are portraying it as evidence that Mr. Bush was intent on war with Iraq earlier than the White House has acknowledged.
[. . .]
It has long been known that American military planning for the Iraq war began as early as Nov. 21, 2001, after President Bush directed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to begin a review of what would be required to oust Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader. By July 2002, the war planning was sufficiently advanced that newspaper accounts that month reported details of some of what was being considered.

Jehl is correct that "[i]t has long been known." If the paragraph inspires anger among some (or possibly many), they will hopefully direct it at the paper and not Jehl. The New York Times elected to front page Judith Miller during the lead up to the invasion/occupation. To this day, Jehl's stories are likely to appear in the Saturday paper, in the paper as in "inside." His reporting loses out to various lifestyle stories that the Times trumpets. But on Saturdays and other days, his topics are usually news.

It's news today. And the article's not given much space, nor is it front paged. As various staff from the Times have noted in e-mails, reporters do not determine where the story lands or the headline for their articles.

As I type this, no one's yet to e-mail about it (placement does determine how much attention an article -- and the information it contains -- receives). But if members want to comment on it, we can do an entry on it. However, please remember that Douglas Jehl did not determine where his story was placed. There's also a good chance that he did not suddenly decide to write it. Yazz will grasp that this is an "in fairness" entry. While there are many things to blame the Times reporters for (and I'm sure Jehl hasn't "hit one out of the park everytime" -- to put in one of those sports analogies the Times so enjoys utilizing), with regards to news of the memo not appearing until now and being buried inside the paper, those are issues with the paper and not the reporter. Were Jehl a part of the Elite Fluff Patrol or not regularly buried inside the paper, I probably wouldn't take the time to make this point which is too bad because even the Fluffers deserve a defense. But they'll have to go elsewhere for that.

(Note that Jehl also has another article on an important topic in the paper today, "Intelligence Czar Is Focus of Legislation," and it too is buried inside the paper.)

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