Monday, January 01, 2007

NYT: "3,000 Deats in Iraq, Countless Tears at Home"

Give the New York Times credit for noting the 3,000 deaths. (And on the front page.) Credit for anything else?

Lizette Alvarez and Andrew Lehren's "Another Grim Milestone for U.S." (front page) which takes a look specifically at Jordan Hess (26 years old) and then do a semi-strong look at the US troop fatalities in Iraq. Semi-strong? There's no reason to trot out the Brookings Institute and their nonsense.

They get credit for listing and running photos of the dead.

What else? The Times is still all over the show death and we're not the Lifestyles of Officials here. It'll be interesting to compare how long the 3,000 registers. I doubt it'll be noted in tomorrow's paper but one person (Hussein) has taken up how many days worth of stories in the New York Times?

Then there's Dana Canedy's article on the front page, no link. It's an embarrassment. It reads like the speech Michelle Pfeiffer gives in Up and Close Personal but, note, her character didn't give a report on it. Was I being too hard? I called around and was surprised those most friends in journalism (or retired from it) hadn't read the article. They figured it would be embarrassing. When they read it, they agreed it was indulgent and didn't belong on the front page.

Canedy lost her husband, Charles King, who died in Iraq. [C.I. note, 2-24-07, No, she didn't. She and King were not married. See note at the bottom.] A former reporter for and now editor for the Times, there's no reason for her to abdicate journalism. As one former Times reporter scoffed, "I'm surprised she didn't sign it Dana Canedy King" -- in reference to both Up Close and Personal and Streisand's earlier speech -- by the same writers, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne -- in A Star Is Born where she declares herselfs "Esther Hoffman Howard." Now Dunne died and Didion wrote a very powerful, very moving book about that and dealing with the loss. If Canedy wants to write a memoir, she's welcome to. But if she wants to write a report and the Times wants to front page it, it better adhere to reporting.

Since she's one of the participants, it will obviously have to be first person reporting. This reads like a soggy obit. It doesn't read like reporting. An editor at a rival paper asked the obvious, "What is her opinion of the war?" The piece is nothing but opinion so to leave out the very obvious opinion of the war her husband died in is a glaring omission.

If she had noted her opinion, it might have been a stronger piece but she's so busy shoving down any unpleasant emotion that it's just embarrassing to read it. If a non-reporter wrote it, that would be one thing but for a trained journalist?

Doesn't cut it.

If she supports the war and had noted that, the piece might have had a purpose. (And we probably would have linked to it. Shelly Kovco supported the war that killed her husband Jake Kovco and we noted his widow's opinion of the war repeatedly even though this community doesn't support the war.) If she's against it, she should have said so.

Either position would have taken the touchy, feely, shapeless piece and given it a spine (journalistically speaking -- but you can also use "spine" in the character sense). Instead it plays out like a sense memory excercise. That doesn't cut it for a journalist.

What it reads like (my opinion and twelve others I spoke with about this piece) is an attempt to get you to feel but not think. It doesn't cut it as journalism and when you grasp that most who've died haven't ever been noted by the paper other than a name listing, it's rather self-serving for the paper to cover the death of one of their employee's husbands. It's the sort of naval gazing, self-referential attitude the Times is supposed to shun.

With no spine, with no position (and this is an op-ed regardless of where the paper runs it), readers are supposed to reach for the hankies. It's appeal to the tear ducts not the intellect.
Had the Times gone to the spouse, parent, partner, child of a service member who died and commissioned from them a piece like this, provided they were a non-journalist, I wouldn't say a word. But this a professional journalist who has no opinion to express but wants to write an op-ed. Your husband is dead, you have an opinion. You may support the war, you may not, but the silence on the merits of the war no longer cuts it.

The only "lesson" it imparts is that if you want your death noted (at length), marry someone at the New York Times. It's not journalism. If she wanted to give it as a speech (at a grief support group) no problem. But it doesn't cut as journalism and she's a trained journalist and it's on the front page of the New York Times.

The danger, some felt, may have been she's too close to it. (Which would mean lacking the 'objectivity' the Times so prizes.) If that's the case, someone steps in and says, "Let's tell your story through another reporter." But if you're going to write a first person account and you are a journalist, you write a first person account and that requires more than talking about rides around Central Park, it requires talking about your feelings of a war that took your husband's life. The inability to do that destroys any power this piece could have.

Instead, it's just a tale of a woman who lost her husband. A sad event but not a news story unless it's treated as such and this isn't.

I've been going through the e-mails today (and Jim and I also picked up some of the mess from last night's New Year's Eve party earlier this morning). Most have noted that a site or program they visit or listen to has nothing on the 3,000 deaths. Truthout has something. At the top of the screen when Lonnie e-mailed. Most don't.

Like Zach noted in his e-mail, I haven't listened to KPFA today. I had no interest in it (see yesterday's entry). Micah tried to listen to WBAI today, during Wakeup Call but notes that they couldn't get it together (at WBAI) to play the tape and it became "some sort of comic sketch that I didn't find amusing."

Mia notes that Common Dreams top headline is Saddam Hussein's death. Guess that's more important than 3,000 dead. Again, we're not Lifestyles of Officials here.

On another topic, three e-mails note (and a fourth copied and pasted) a really stupid article. I agree, it is really stupid. It's a topic Ava and I have covered many times at The Third Estate Sunday Review and the idiot (and that's my word) writing on it doesn't even know the basics. I'll write about it in the column for the gina & krista round-robin but I'm not writing about it here. There's nothing worse than a supposed lefty attempting to prove how 'objective' they are by rushing in to defend a radical right-winger (who is a disgusting human being -- in so many ways and Ava and I have covered that since 2005 at The Third Estate Sunday Review). It's nonsense but some lefties need to be embraced by the right -- usually that occurs shortly before they go over to the right though many continue to proclaim left status and water down the discourse by posing.

If the left lacks a sense of direction, blame it on the nonsense noted above, both the idiot and the fact that the 3,000 mark has passed and most haven't noted it. There are some who have posted since the 3,000 announcement but they still can't note it.

It's nonsense. The New York Times notes it with a headline on the front page and provides a semi-strong article by Lizette Alvarez and Andrew Lehren as well as a listing (with photos) of all the dead. Give them credit for that and grasp that those who aren't noting it are telegraphing how useless they are.

Zach wondered if anyone was listening to radio this morning? No member has e-mailed to praise anything they heard. Several have e-mailed to say they can't believe what they were hearing before they turned it off. In terms of here, I haven't listened. I've played music. Jess and Ava are holed up in their room this morning listening to music. (Ava's still sick to answer Brenda's question. I'm hoping I'm at the end of the flu finally.) Dona's been camped out in the kitchen with various papers (and coffee) for most of the morning. When Jim and I were going around with trash bags this morning, we had music playing (CDs). Ty had plans with Kat today (and I believe Maggie and Dak Ho). They may have listened to radio in the car. But I know Kat expressed her disappointment in the last sentence of her post last night.

I would've loved to have been able to provide links to various independent media that's covered the 3,000 mark but the truth is there's Truthout and Martha e-mailed that Danny Schechter noted it as well. I think the lack of discussion or even noting of the 3,000 mark demonstrates/underscores that the problem isn't with the people, it's with the media. Death, despite Alberto Casella's play, takes no holiday. Media takes plenty. The New York Times can at least state that they didn't. Others can't argue the same claim.

Hopefully you're taking part in some event today. (We are here.) Ruth plans to do her report this evening so you can look for that later today.

The e-mail address for this site is And, again, others will be helping with the e-mails starting tomorrow but I've been working all the accounts in the meantime. If you're a member, you will get a reply. If you're a visitor and a reply is needed, you'll get one. But I am behind in the e-mails currently (and planning to take some medicine and take a nap as soon as I post this). My apologies.

[C.I. note added 2-24-07. An e-mail came in to this site correcting the marriage to King. They weren't married. If she wants to claim King as her husband and portray herself as a widow, I have no personal problem with it. However, she has gotten on the nerves of those who remember King and I was asked to clarify that they were not married.]