On Sunday, Eason Jordan, who recently launched IraqSlogger.com, a great new site whose aim is to produce and aggregate as much news about Iraq as possible, offered his roundup of Iraq-focused stories in the New York Times and Washington Post’s Sunday editions. And what he found was a bit surprising — at least initially:
The New York Times and Washington Post are stuffed with Iraq-focused reporting, analyses, and commentaries - 25 in all. Yet, amazingly, not a single one of those original stories comes from Iraq itself (in fairness, there’s a Baghdad-datelined AP report in the NYT). Why? With 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, Iraqis and Americans being killed there every day, and with the U.S. troop presence costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a day, Americans deserve and need meaty reporting from the war zone daily. And I pity the newspaper correspondents risking life and limb in Iraq only to see their editors opt not to include a single original story from Iraq in the huge Sunday papers (two days straight for the NYT).
We understand Jordan’s point, and agree that there are times — too many, in fact — where there just isn’t enough on-the-ground reporting from Iraq. Last January, while embedded with a Marine unit in Fallujah, I wrote that while reporters in Iraq “were all there by choice, and were doing everything they could to cover the story the best they could…there just aren’t enough of them to give the conflict its due.
Which is too bad, because from time immemorial, the best war reporting has been done down in the dust and the mud, elbow to elbow with the soldiers doing the killing and the crying and the sweating and the dying (see Pyle, Ernie) — not from command posts, and certainly not from press centers.”
Jordan makes a similar point. But his analysis suffers a bit due to the narrow window from which he views the coverage of the conflict (and he doesn’t seem to fully consider the staggering cost, and sheer force of will it takes to write anything from Iraq.) While the Sunday papers were admittedly short on stories from reporters in-country, a quick look at the days preceding Sunday and those that followed shows that neither paper is ignoring its Baghdad bureaus. In fact, the Sunday papers looked to be an anomaly when recent coverage is taken as a whole.
While there were no Baghdad-datelined stories on Sunday, Saturday saw a front-page article by Nancy Trejos from Baghdad, and on Friday, the paper ran another page 1 piece by Raghavan; and Raghavan and Joshua Partlow were planted on page 1 again on Wednesday.
There were more pieces both up front and inside the A section throughout the week, but you get the picture.
As far as the Times is concerned, let’s not forget that on Saturday, the paper ran an important page 1 piece by the incomparable Carlotta Gall from that other shooting war in Afghanistan, and a page 6 piece by the equally far-flung Jeffrey Gettleman from Somalia. Sunday’s paper had no front-page Iraq stories, though the three on page 14 were critically important (one about soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq, and an AP story about the Malaki government’s reaction to the Bush administration’s new plan).
On Friday, John Burns and Sabrina Tavernise reported from Baghdad, and Wednesday’s paper included another page 1 story from the Baghdad bureau.