Wednesday, March 10, 2010

News Consumer's Lament

Yesterday we ignored Anthony Shadid's "Iraqi Officials to Begin Releasing Vote Tallies on Wednesday" (New York Times). It's almost five o'clock (p.m.) in Iraq as I type this and where are those early results? Oh, look! Anthony Shadid's just filed something today, "Partial Iraq Vote Results Expected by Thursday."

So in other words, you were wrong. So in other words, you wasted our time. So in other words, an announcement isn't a news story and, in fact, news continues to be what has happened, what can be verified.

In other words,
Just from waiting around for a little bit of actual news,
A news consumer can develop the blues.
You can gas bag it and predict it, oh, how the horse race will end
You can give it a shot and blather a lot all over again
But if they're tired of getting the spin from a bunch of cackling hens
A news consumer can develop the blues.
-- cribbed from Frank Loesser's "Adelaide's Lament" (Guys and Dolls)

We ignored Shadid yesterday, we ignored all the new reports with predictions and all the other garbage. (The only exception being audio and video links. If they gas bagged, we ignored the gas baggery and excerpted the reality. We're a diverse community and we do have couples where one benefits from text but the other doesn't. We need audio and video links to be welcoming to all.) Shadid wasn't the only one forgetting what a reporter is and what reporting is. I wasn't in the mood, for yesterday's snapshot, to pan for gold in various articles. Imagine what our understanding would be like, our comprehension, if reporters actually reported as opposed to offering gas baggery. What a world that would be.

It's not as if actual reporting can't be done on topics of great interest. Ernesto Londono and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) demonstrate that's possible and file from Iraq:

A controversy over the disqualification of candidates threatened Tuesday to undermine the legitimacy of Iraq's recent elections and inflame supporters of a coalition seeking to topple the alliance led by the prime minister.

That's an actual report. It's not, "My friend in Najif says that ___ is leading in the vote so ___ is going to be the next prime minister!!!!!" It's not nonsense. It's an actual report. It can be done.

And Shadid's named in this entry but he's far from the only one worthy of calling out. And, speaking on radio programs, he does a far better job of what is known and what is unknown than he's done at the paper in print. Which may indicate a problem at the paper and one far higher than Shadid. But Shadid is not new to Iraq and certainly should know by now to take announcements in Iraq with a grain of salt. We're seeing the typical behavior in Iraq following an election: Results are coming! Results are coming!

They'll be here when they're here. What the US media in Iraq is really demonstrating (with a few exceptions) is that they are unable to report because the media landscape has been so damaged with gas baggery during (US) elections that it's now the norm. Every four years in the US, the news media's election coverage gets worse and worse and, sadly, that bad coverage is now being exported around the world. Imagine how much more informed we'd be in the US if the media killed all the horse race predictions and instead reported on issues. But it's cheaper and faster to do the gas baggery.

Anyone can (and I see two outlets already have this morning) write "A is ahead of B!" And tomorrow, they'll write something different. There will be no accountability for their claims if they are demonstrated to be false. But for a full news cycle, that spin will have passed for information that was reported. It's worthless and it serves no one (other than the candidate able to convince the media -- with no proof -- that s/he's in the lead).

Hugh Sykes (BBC News) reports, "I met Osama with four of his friends, all 18 years old - Atar Keyhan, Becker Shakir, Mustafa Ibrahim Younis and Mustafa Abdel Karim. Last Sunday they all went out to vote for first time. Osama didn't make it to the polling station - soldiers wouldn't let him pass. The others succeeded. 'It was great voting for the first time,' they said, 'It was great to choose our leaders. It was a great feeling'." Again, reporting is possible. Sykes is another one who proves it.

Tom Engelhardt ( has a column in today's Los Angeles Times entitled "Doomsday in Iraq -- is it really just around the corner?" and this is the opening:

We've now been at war intermittently with Iraq for almost 20 years, and with Afghanistan for 30. It adds up to nearly half a century of experience, all bad.
Yet an expanding crew of Washington-based opiners is calling for President Obama to extend the misery, urging the administration to alter its plans -- negotiated in the last months of the George W. Bush administration -- for the departure of all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. Pulling out on schedule, they argue, would virtually assure civil violence and ethnic bloodletting in Iraq.
According to these doomsayers, our withdrawal as scheduled would encourage Shiite militias to stage a violence-filled comeback. Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs would increase -- bringing more violence. And the group Al Qaeda in Iraq would move to fill any power void with its own destructive agenda.

At Salem-News, Tim King has three new articles:

No Longer America
What First Amendment?

Biden Unhappy Over Israel's Jerusalem Settlement Plan

Makers of 9/11 Documentary 'Loose Change' Fight Back During ABC News Interview

The last two headlines are clear but don't miss the first one which is about a new bill John McCain's introduced ("Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010"), so be sure to check that one out as well. And the Loose Change link (last one) has video and text.

We'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "World Can't Wait Sustainer Drive: One More Week to Reach 100%" (World Can't Wait):

"Peace of the Action" starts Monday, March 15 near the Washington Monument as an ongoing protest to demand that the occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan end. Cindy Sheehan was in New York recently with Chelsea Neighbors for Peace, calling on people to participate in its first action, Camp OUT NOW. I will be speaking there on Wednesday March 17, with David Swanson on the need for prosecution of war crimes.
Cindy's new book, Myth America II is online. She includes World Can't Wait in acknowledgements as a group that has made her life easier over this past year and thanks "Debra Sweet from World Can't Wait for being the unwavering moral backbone of this movement and my support 'group' when I was at my all-time Obama-lowest."
Cindy and the thousands of people protesting Saturday, March 20 against Obama's wars, including World Can't Wait, are pushing to make history and change the disastrous direction the U.S. government is pursuing. Find flyers & post your event. Actions in Washington DC, Chicago, Charlottesville VA, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles. Sign up on Facebook.
The World Can't Wait's sustainer fund drive runs through March 15. We can and must fulfill our goal of reaching monthly expenses to strengthen the national resistance to the crimes of our government. You can sign up here at any level you choose.

The e-mail address for this site is