Saturday, December 23, 2006

NYT: Continuing to ignore the fatalities

"Shiites Remake Baghdad in Their Image" is the headline, Sabrina Tavernise is the byline, New York Times is the paper. The mood? Mechanical. If weeks, WEEKS, after McClatchy Newspapers have been covering the story, you're suddenly going to take note, you need to do so with something better than this pedistrian I-really-don't-know-what-I'm-writing-but-watch-me-tick-off-a-check-list approach.

Maybe after Shatha al-Awsy's "A Baghdad resident seeks a safe haven" on November 28th, cookie-cutter, paint-by-number doesn't cut it? From al-Awsy's article:

As my family fled the fighting that's engulfed our neighborhood in Baghdad, I gazed out the car window, thinking that I might never again see the fruit stand off our street, the shops where my sisters and I bought soft drinks, the turquoise-domed mosque where we prayed in the holy month of Ramadan.
And to think I'd spent Sunday in my garden, using the forced free time of a curfew to plant geraniums for spring. Later that night, Shiite militiamen encroached on our Sunni enclave; the reverse had happened in so many other neighborhoods, and now it was our turn. Any thoughts of the future were overshadowed by the need to survive the night.
A year ago, I was a newlywed excited about finally having a place of my own. I filled it with what we call baghdadiyat, the artifacts of a bygone time in Iraq's history: an Ottoman trunk, Persian carpets, copper spoons and silver vases finely etched with designs of birds and flowers. Abstract paintings by young Iraqi artists hung on the wall. My garden outside was ringed with stones and filled with climbing vines and seasonal flowers.
When it became too dangerous to dine at restaurants, my husband and I would sometimes set a table in the garden and eat together under a floodlight - if there was electricity. This was my sanctuary from war.

Tavernise's article reads like the sort of survey pieces the Times does on America to test the mood. Considering the topic -- Sunnis being forced from Baghdad -- that's probably not the best journalistic approach for Tavernise's article.

In fairness to Tavernise, today's report is graded not just by myself but by people who made their living and make their living in journalism. It's a tough crowd and she just doesn't measure up. The grading panel is all print except for two from the world of broadcast -- both of whom had early print experience. The consensus on Tavernise's report?

She's shown up at the recital and her piece has only one note which she strikes over and over and over . . . Hopefully, she wore a pretty dress.

Though five US troops were announced dead by the US military on Friday, you can search in vain for that story in the New York Times. Apparently this wave of Operation Happy Talk demands that the Times ignores or buries all US fatalities. And fortunately, when it comes to that, the New York Times is up for the job.

How shameful is that? One day this week, in a five paragraph article (with a byline of "The New York Times") noted deaths. Otherwise? That is really shameful. It's not only bad journalism, it is shameful. There's a debate over what to compare it to -- Good Housekeeping? I honestly don't know if that magazine is still around. Was that the one that was Rosie for awhile? But that's the sort of 'reporting' that leaves out US fatalities -- that 'we must not upset our readers,' fragile flowers all, type 'reporting.' (Which, I'll add, went out the window when it was time to repeat a rumor, in the 90s, that a celebrity marriage was a for-show arrangement.)

It's already the worst December of the illegal war for US troops deaths but you wouldn't know it to read the New York Times. They don't want to spook to the country, or serve the readers. So we get Tavernise at the piano hitting that one note (it's not even a chord) over and over and we get David S. Cloud and John O'Neil yacking it up about Robert Gates. They're the boys fighting over who Daddy loves best. Tall tales from little boys. Then in their final paragraph (ten) of yacking it up, one sentence to cover what should be a story and, barring its own story, should be the opening paragraph.

75 is the number of US troops who have died in Iraq this month. It's the uncomfortable fact the New York Times can't report. If Bully Boy's The Decider, the Times is . . .

Oh yes I'm the great pretender -- oooh oooh
Adrift in a world of my own -- oooh oooh
I play the game but to my real shame
You've left me to dream all alone

The Platters, a bit before my time but this is a group entry.

Here's two grownups with Reuters, Kristin Roberts and Ross Colvin, explaining what the Times can't:

The U.S. military on Friday reported the deaths of five more soldiers in Iraq as Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended a visit aimed at finding a new strategy to curb violence and allow U.S. troops to withdraw.
Four U.S. servicemen were killed in action on Thursday in Anbar province, heartland of the unrelenting Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces and the Iraqi government and the most dangerous place in Iraq for American soldiers.
A fifth was killed and another wounded west of Baghdad on Friday when their patrol came under machinegun and mortar fire, the U.S. military said. At least 71 U.S. soldiers have died so far this month.

Opening paragraphs. And while the Times has ignored reality all week, over at the Washington Post, Nancy Trejos' again covers it, today in "5 U.S. Troops Die in Iraq as Month's Toll Hits 70:"

Five more American service members have been killed in Iraq, the U.S. military reported Friday, in what is shaping up to be one of the deadliest months for U.S. forces this year.
Four of those deaths occurred Thursday in western Iraq's Anbar province, where Sunni insurgents are aggressively fighting U.S. troops. The fatalities included three Marines and a sailor assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7, the military said.

And staying away from the Times' kiddie table, we'll note Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily's "Iraqi Hopes Dim Through Worst Year of Occupation" (IPS):

Despite promises from Iraqi and U.S. leaders that 2006 would bring improvement, Iraqis have suffered through the worst year in living memory, facing violence, fragmentation and a disintegrated economy.
A year back Iraqis were promised that 2006 would be the fresh beginning of a, prosperous, democratic and unified Iraq. Through an elected parliament and a unity government, they would find peace, and start rebuilding a country torn apart by the U.S.-backed UN sanctions and then the U.S.-led invasion and occupation.
But everyone agrees that the situation now is worse than ever. Leaders in Iraq disagree only to the extent they blame one another for the collapse in security that has led to worsened services and living conditions.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with many other Shia leaders in the Iraqi government, blames al-Qaeda and "Saddamists" for the degrading situation. Echoing statements by U.S. President George W. Bush, al-Maliki told reporters recently: "Those terrorists hate democracy because that makes them lose power, and all they are doing is killing Iraqi people in order to recapture what they lost after the liberation of Iraq."
Whatever leaders say, people are simply looking back on a hellish year, and fearful of another to come.
"I wish I could flee to any third world country and work in garbage collection rather than stay here and live like a frightened rat," Adel Mohammed Aziz, a teacher from Baghdad told IPS. "We are all living in fear for our lives; death chases us all around.."
The displacement of Iraqis from Iraq is currently the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis, according to the Washington-based group Refugees International which works towards providing humanitarian assistance and protection for displaced people.
The United Nations estimates that at least 2.3 million Iraqis have fled the growing violence in their country. They estimate that 1.8 million Iraqis have fled to surrounding countries, while another half million have vacated their homes for safer areas within Iraq. An estimated 40,000 people are leaving Iraq every month for Syria alone, according to the UN.

Pay attention to what they're reporting. Be sure to note the talk that 2006 would be better. You're hearing the same nonsense from the Bully Boy about 2007 right now. That turned corner that -- despite all the hype -- only leads to more violence and chaos (and always will).

On the topic of things to listen to, Rachel notes that WBAI offers the following next week (tomorrow and Monday):

Sunday, December 24, 11am-noon
Satirists Paul Krassner, Michael Elias, David Dozer discuss "Censorship and Creativity." Moderated by Janet Coleman.

A stocking stuffer hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.

And the following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz
Wally's The Daily Jot:
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

And Keesha notes Margaret Kimberley's latest, "Latino New Orleans" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report):

Migration is a constant in human history. In the land that is now the United States those forces were set in motion by Europeans who claimed inhabited land for themselves. They initiated a pattern of invasions across the continent, followed by the forced migration or annihilation of the original inhabitants, and the forced migration of Africans.
All of which brings us to New Orleans. The displacement of that city’s black population began with a natural disaster, hurricane Katrina. Katrina may have emanated from nature, but the damage that followed was caused by human beings.
The government of the United States allowed the levees that protected New Orleans to deteriorate so badly that they failed when they were most needed. The banana republic that is now the United States sees no reason to help human beings, or even to maintain its own infrastructure.
Malfeasance that took place before and after the storm created a displaced population. Residents who asked to be rescued from the flood were instead sent to far flung places. Those wanting to return are stymied because they have neither places to live, nor places to work.

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the washington post
nancy trejos