Friday, December 09, 2005

Other Items

Let's hear it for the boy, let's give the guy a . . . class in journalism? Timothy Egan weighs in today in the New York Times in what's apparently an article he didn't have time to complete.
It's called "6 Arrested Years After Ecoterrorist Acts" or, as I like to think of it, "I've looked at life from one side now, from down and down, and still somehow . . . it's really reporting I don't know . . . at all."

What's the problem with the article? You get the feeling, reading it, that the people were convicted already? They weren't. They were arrested. Now Egan's got time to round up law enforcement officials for a quote, he's got time to hunt down a professor for a quote, he's got time to speak to a property owner.

Egan's doing a fine job making the prosecution's case for them.

He's just failed to find anyone that can speak for the defense. Kangroo court? Kangroo journalism?

Somehow this passed the Times' love of "both sides" reporting. That's because the need to present both sides seems to only matter to the paper when it involves well known people, especially if they're government officials or former government officials. Compare and contrast this with the coverage of Lawrence Franklin or Sandy Berger.

Might those arrested not have a version in need of telling? Doesn't appear to cross the Times' mind today. Or Egan's or "Egan"s.

No one's died in the crimes the people are accused of but Egan (or "Egan") is comfortable reprinting the claim that so-called eco-terrorists are the biggest domestic threat. Hey, guess it stops us from wondering if the government's ever going to track down the person or persons behind the anthrax mailings.

Didn't people die from that? Why, yes, they did. But the Times is more than happy to run with the assertion that people accused of harming property, but no persons, are the most dangerous domestic threat. It's a curious sort of perspective but one in keeping with the Times' history.

Meanwhile Abby Goodnough (or "Goodnough" if it's got the handiwork of someone else) isn't turning in anything good enough today. The article's entitled "Fretful Passenger, Turmoil on Jet and Fatal Shots" and let's deal with Scotty McClellan because he's always a good starting point:

"I don't think anyone wants to see it come to a situation like this," said Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman. "But these marshals appear to have acted in a way that's consistent with the extensive training that they have received. And we'll see what the investigation shows, and lessons learned from that will be applied to future training and protocol."

And of course that does nothing for the dead man, does it? But way for Scott to see the silver lining. If Bully Boy steers us into a depression, look for Scotty to assure us that maybe we can't afford to eat but think of all the weight will be losing!

Not nearly Goodnough today tells us Chief Willie Marshall thinks. Chief Willie (recall Katherine Hepburn's delivery of "Uncle Willie" in The Philadelphia Story) is on record and in print telling us what the wife told the police. Or what he says the wife told the police. His version of why the wife and her late husband were traveling to begin with conflcits with a neighbor's but no need for doubt apparently.

Another only in the Times (though sadly, it's probably true of most journalism today) passage is worth noting:

Chief Marshall would not reveal the specifics of his agency's interviews with people who were on the aircraft, including whether any had said they heard Mr. Alpizar threaten that he had a bomb. But Mark Raynor, an American Airlines pilot and local union official in Miami, said an account he heard from the plane's captain had supported law enforcement accounts of the shooting.

The police won't talk. Neither, apparently, will anyone who can say one way or another. So what to do? Fall back on the heard-it-from-a-friend-who-heard-it-from-a-friend reporting. Whether Goodnough's a fan of REO Speedwagon or not is unkown. But so is what happened on the plane and "I didn't observe anything myself but I heard someone who had and this is what they say . . ."

Which ranks right up there with an interview with the sister-in-law that's credited to a "reporter." I'm doubting this is another outlet. It's one of the many names in the end credit most likely. How is that reporting?

Put "reporter"'s name in the byline and let reporter have credit. Goodnough doesn't deserve a solo byline on a story that relies heavily on an interview done by another reporter, an interview that the wording seems to indicate she wasn't present for.

It's not smart. If it turns out the facts are wrong who's going to get criticized? (Or post Judith Miller and Jayson Blair and . . . does the paper still think they can never be wrong?) If something's wrong, Goodnough got the credit for the article so Goodnough will take the fall. What is she today? A TV personality relying on producers to do all the research? If a reporter conducted the interview and the interview's being used in the article, you credit the reporter in the byline. You don't dump him or her in the end credits with a host of other names. It's not fair to "reporter" and it's not fair to Goodnough because who at the Times knows these days when the next story's going to blow up in their faces?

Barbara Miner is apparently the reporter. Possibly if she'd shared a byline, Kelley Buechner would be identified as the sister-in-law as soon as she starts speaking and you wouldn't have to wait for the fourth paragraph after she "enters" to find out who she is.

Scheduled topics for today on Democracy Now!:

New Orleans in the Aftermath: Three months after Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast, we hear from survivors still looking for missing relatives and loved ones, and we play excerpts of the explosive congressional hearings about race and the government's response to the disaster.

Lloyd notes Matthew Rothschild's "Pinter Lays It All Out: Indict Bush, Blair" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Occasionally, an award recipient will chuck the clichés and park the platitudes and actually say something meaningful, something daring.
Such a thing happened on December 7 in Stockholm, when Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize-winner for Literature,
delivered an amazing, taped address.
Taped, because he was too ill to deliver it in person.
But he was by no means weak.
He let Bush have it.
But it wasn't just Bush.
It was Blair and Britain too, a country he called America's "own bleating little lamb tagging behind it" on a leash.
Pinter asked, "How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?"

Kara notes Norman Solomon's "Rumsfeld's Handshake Deal with Saddam" (CounterPunch):

Christmas came 11 days early for Donald Rumsfeld two years ago when the news broke that American forces had pulled Saddam Hussein from a spidery hole. During interviews about the capture, on CBS and ABC, the Pentagon's top man was upbeat. And he didn't have to deal with a question that Lesley Stahl or Peter Jennings could have logically chosen to ask: "Secretary Rumsfeld, you met with Saddam almost exactly 20 years ago and shook his hand. What kind of guy was he?"
Now, Saddam Hussein has gone on trial, but such questions remain unasked by mainstream U.S. journalists. Rumsfeld met with Hussein in Baghdad on behalf of the Reagan administration, opening up strong diplomatic and military ties that lasted through six more years of Saddam's murderous brutality.
As it happens, the initial trial of Saddam and co-defendants is focusing on grisly crimes that occurred the year before Rumsfeld gripped his hand. "The first witness, Ahmad Hassan Muhammad, 38, riveted the courtroom with the scenes of torture he witnessed after his arrest in 1982, including a meat grinder with human hair and blood under it," the New York Times reported Tuesday. And: "At one point, Mr. Muhammad briefly broke down in tears as he recalled how his brother was tortured with electrical shocks in front of their 77-year-old father."
The victims were Shiites -- 143 men and adolescent boys, according to the charges -- tortured and killed in the Iraqi town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against Saddam in early July of 1982. Donald Rumsfeld became the Reagan administration's Middle East special envoy 15 months later.

Kara asks that we quote "War Got Your Tongue." Not this morning, I'm too tired. It was part of "special programming" which was an all night thing. We'll quote it in full tomorrow here. (I know there's at least one curse word, in the quote from a movie, and I don't want to copy and paste and miss "*"ing a word. Also I'm not up to dealing with the spacing this morning.) If you haven't read "War Got Your Tongue" please do.

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[Note: Post corrected for typos and "they" changed to "the wife and her late husband" for clarity. Also the link to Matthew Rothschild's post has been put in. And thank you to Sean for catching that.]