Monday, September 14, 2009

Realities v. predictions

An angry e-mail comes in from a visitor insisting that the "shoe thrower is news and you've avoided it for over a week. With him getting out today, maybe you'll find time to mention it!" Maybe I will.

Except he's not out today. Except Muntazer al-Zaidi, infamous for the December hurling of two shoes at George W. Bush who was speaking to the press in Iraq, isn't being released today. It's been delayed. Which isn't a surprise when you consider Iraqi "justice."

If last week had been a slow week news wise, we might have done a single sentence on how he was "scheduled to be released." I am aware that many news outlets were filing near daily stories. But that's not news no matter how many times they file. The only thing that qualifies as news is: "Scheduled to be released."

But they went ahead and wrote their articles and ran with it. "Shoe Thrower Will Be Released Monday!!!" Uh no. That's not reporting. If he had been released today, it still wouldn't be reporting. Throw in "scheduled" and they've got reporting. But they didn't and what they were doing was predicting.

Here, we call out the press failures who try to predict the future. A reporter's job is to report what is happening. ("Reporter." We're being specific and not using "journalist" which would encompass columnists, etc.) Reporters who say that the US will pull out of Iraq in 2011 are not reporters. They seem to think they're Miss Cleo of the Psychic Hotline.

Reporters report what happens.

The US has not left Iraq, Muntazer al-Zaidi has not been released. (He is now scheduled to be released on Tuesday.) Al Jazeera: "The release of Muntazer al-Zaidi, the television reporter jailed for throwing his shoes at George Bush, the former US president, has been delayed, according to his brother."

There was a ton of news on Iraq last week, things that actually happened. Yes, many outlets jerked off and wasted all of our time with their "He's released!" coverage. The same ones usually skipped out on Ambassador Chris Hill testimony Thursday morning to the US House Foreign Relations Committee and Thursday afternoon to the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. When Ryan Crocker was US Ambassador to Iraq and spoke to Congress, it got coverage.

In fact, the most high profile coverage -- reaching the largest audience -- that Hill's testimony received was probably when Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) discussed it on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show Friday (Diane's back today for any wondering).

We didn't get coverage of that. We got "Shoe Thrower Released!"

And we're still getting that crap. This is Reuters (and we're being kind and not including a byline): "Once an obscure TV reporter, Muntazer al-Zaidi had been expected to walk free on Monday, but a judge asked for additional documents before ordering his release. Under Iraqi penal procedures, freed prisoners can only leave prison a day after a court ruling, so Zaidi will go home on Tuesday." He "will go home on Tuesday"? Really. He has a heart attack and dies in prison tonight and he still goes home? There was a prison riot last week (Abu Ghraib). His prison launches a riot in 30 minutes that last for four days, he still "will go home on Tuesday"?

He is "scheduled" to go home on Tuesday. Even he is "expected" to go home on Tuesday is permissable. But reporting is not saying Monday morning that Tuesday someone will go home. That's predicting.

Reporting is covering what happened. Until Muntazer is released, he is in prison. He is no where else and there is no reason to say he is somewhere else the following day. He is in prison. That's a known. Reporting is supposed to deal with the facts. Today, outlets are telling you he "will go home" tomorrow. But the same outlets last week were telling you that he would be home today.

Reporting is using "scheduled" and not rushing to say what's going to happen tomorrow.

William Petroski (Des Moines Register) reports, "It's been eight years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and Pentagon officials are still relying heavily on the National Guard for overseas combat operations. The latest Iowa unit to receive mobilization orders is the 132nd Fighter Wing of Des Moines. The unit will send 300 airmen to Iraq this fall to spend three months flying and maintaining F-16 warplanes in support of U.S. ground forces." And that is news. And that is reporting. 300 are being deployed to Iraq. The Iraq War continues. It has not stopped and if editors gave a damn about the accuracy of the work they oversee, all these reporters who keep lying that that Iraq War "will end in 2011" would be taken to the woodshed. That's a prediction (and a bad one), it's not reporting.

Corry A. Edwards, Robert Vallejo II, Anthony Luke Mason, Brady J. Rudolf, Julio Ordonez, Daniel Eshbaugh and Michael E. Thompson died in Iraq in September of 2007 when their helicopter crashed. Chris Vaughn's "Ceremony honors 7 Guardsmen killed in Iraq" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Houston Chronicle) covers a ceremony for the falled which took place yesterday in Texas:

Under a constant and soaking rain, the last of their remains were buried in a single battleship-gray casket at the top of a hill in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, a fitting end, some said, because of their close relationship while alive.
“I'm glad they did this,” said Glenda Hamilton, the mother of Chief Warrant Officer Corry A. Edwards, 38, who lived in Kennedale. “This is good. This is closure.”
Most of the men's individual remains had already been identified and buried months ago. But in a catastrophic accident like theirs, some could not be separated.

Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: Get Under The Covers" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "He's Going To Scare You To Death" went up yesterday.

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