Rosemary Goudreau, the editorial page editor of The Tampa Tribune, has received the same e-mail message a dozen times over the last year.
“Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?” the anonymous polemic asks, in part. “Did you know that 3,100 schools have been renovated?”
“Of course we didn’t know!” the message concludes. “Our media doesn’t tell us!”
Ms. Goudreau’s newspaper, like most dailies in America, relies largely on The Associated Press for its coverage of the Iraq war. So she finally forwarded the e-mail message to Mike Silverman, managing editor of The A.P., asking if there was a way to check these assertions and to put them into context. Like many other journalists, Mr. Silverman had also received a copy of the message.
Ms. Goudreau’s query prompted an unusual discussion last month in New York at a regular meeting of editors whose newspapers are members of The Associated Press. Some editors expressed concern that a kind of bunker mentality was preventing reporters in Iraq from getting out and explaining the bigger picture beyond the daily death tolls.
“The bottom-line question was, people wanted to know if we’re making progress in Iraq,” Ms. Goudreau said, and the A.P. articles were not helping to answer that question.
“It was uncomfortable questioning The A.P., knowing that Iraq is such a dangerous place,” she said. “But there’s a perception that we’re not telling the whole story.”
Mr. Silverman said in an interview that he was aware of that perception. “Other editors said they get calls from readers who are hearing stories from returning troops of the good things they have accomplished while there, and readers find that at odds with the generally gloomy portrayal in the papers of what’s going on in Iraq,” he said.
I don’t hold out much hope for meaningful change, but we’ll see.
(Hat tip: Austin Bay)
As Powerline notes, this seems to be a vindication of sorts for St. Paul Pioneer Press associate editorial page editor Mark Yost, who wrote an op/ed piece last month that criticized his colleagues for only covering one side of the story in Iraq. As a result of that, Yost was hung out to dry by those same colleagues, one of whom said in an email to Yost, “I am embarassed to call you my colleague.”
Yost had his finger on the pulse. And now, some editors at papers who carry AP stories are finally listening to what their readership has been telling them …. but how much and what the results of this internal analyzing of how the Iraq war has been covered will be remains to be seen.