Iraq Reporting Should Come With a Warning


At the Nation’s blog, Tom Engelhardt, reflecting on a comment by New York Times Iraq reporter that “98 percent of Iraq, and even most of Baghdad, has now become ‘off-limits’ for Western journalists,” has this to say:

Here’s the problem. I’ve been reading New York Times reportage since the invasion of Iraq began and I don’t remember running across a figure like that — and neither has just about anyone else who happens to have been reading a major paper in the US for the last year. When, way back in September 2004, an e-mail from the Wall Street Journal‘s fine reporter Farnaz Fassihi slipped into public view, suggesting that “[b]eing a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest,” it was treated as a scandal in the media; her “objectivity” was called into question; and (if memory serves) she was sent on vacation until after the presidential election. While there was a vigorous discussion in the British press of what came to be called “hotel journalism,” it was hardly a subject here, once you got past The New York Review of Books.

Tom’s solution: a sort of news consumer’s health warning:

Cigarette packs have their warning labels, as do vitamin supplements. Shouldn’t our news have the equivalent? How about little pie-chart icons before each Iraqi story suggesting what percentage of the news pie had been available that day. Or a warning label that might say: “This ordinary piece was put together by American reporters locked in their well-guarded and barricaded buildings from scraps of information delivered by Iraqi reporters who can’t even tell their families where they work for fear of assassination.”

Worth reading in full.

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