Thursday, July 5, 2007

It's the war, stupid (arguments against the existence or non-existence of the Baghdad Press Club)

Interesting point in response to my post on Mika Brzezinski, as well as a post by Steve. You've already heard my original point, so let's hear Steve:

Apparently, the producers at MSNBC wanted [Mika Brzezinski] to lead with that story over some "fluff piece" about the war in Iraq and controversy in the White House. She refused. The two morons beside her, especially host Joe Scarborough, tout the tired line that Paris is news. They simply come across as pandering assholes who should be lynched by anyone who believes the news needs a heavy dose of integrity.

Too many people will defend coverage of this clownette because she "sells". Well, it doesn't matter.

My response to Steve:

So if you object to a story - any story - you can simply refuse to read it, call out your producer on the air, and lunge for your co-worker's lighter. And this woman is a hero?

Steve's response to me (after he took the time to read my post):

Of course you can do all of the above. And of course I agree with it. I thought that was apparent in my post. And yes, in response to your "gay marriage" post you linked, I would still applaud her. Gay marriage, while relatively newsworthy (especially in the homophobic US), should not come before a piece on the Iraq war. Period.

Ignoring the "how to treat your co-workers" issue for a moment, let's look at Paris vs. Iraq - or, to be more accurate, any potential "fluff" piece vs. Iraq. (And yes, I'm making the assumption that gay marriage is, relative to Iraq, a fluff piece. So douse me with a lighter or sumfin.)

Does Andy Jones have a moral obligation to keep Iraq on the front burner?

This was discussed as early as January 14, 2005 by Kevin Berger at Salon:

The international spotlight on the Iraq debacle is shrinking daily, reports news agency, Agence France Presse. Tyranny of the press, in this case, is the widespread threat of violence to journalists, certain to thin out the coverage of the upcoming Iraq election....

Many papers have brought their reporters home, including Russia's three major news agencies, and others have stationed only their most seasoned war correspondents in areas for brief periods....

Meanwhile, "those who remain in Baghdad have learned to take extraordinary precautions, like traveling in separate automobiles, keeping in touch via walkie-talkies using code words and taking a backup car for security. Yet the bottom line, said [Stephen] Farrell, is that 'if the mainstream Sunni resistance wanted journalists dead, we would all have been dead or kidnapped months ago. And the only reason that we're operating is that they want us to operate.'"

New York Magazine included this interesting statement:

The Bush administration and its shriller supporters have often complained that reporters are barely doing their jobs in Iraq, hiding in their compounds instead. This is a notion, needless to say, that offends many reporters in Baghdad, particularly if they’ve been shot at or chased by mobs. “There’s this notion that the reporters in Iraq don’t get out,” says Dexter Filkins, who’s been in the Baghdad bureau of the New York Times almost continuously since the war began. “Can I just put something out there? I go out. I go out, like, every day, and most of my colleagues do, too.”...

Iraq is a limited-access beat, perversely like the White House, where spot news and press conferences drive the daily coverage; nuances and trends require patience, creativity, and better sources; and the real stories may never be told. If reporters can no longer wander the streets or visit people’s homes, then naturally it is harder for them to understand what the people of the country are perceiving. If reporters are likely to be kidnapped when pursuing militias or crushed by a mob in the aftermath of a suicide bomb, then naturally it is harder for them to understand the nature of Iraq’s violence.

Perhaps these complaints about lack of coverage were motivated the founding of the Baghdad Press Club. Or perhaps not, as there were complaints about that organization by December 2005:

A U.S. investigation into allegations that the American military is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media has expanded to examine a press club founded and financed by the U.S. Army.
The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the U.S. military as a way to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman.

The Army acknowledges funding the club and offering "reporter compensation," but insists officers did not demand favorable coverage....

Ahmad al-Hamdani, a reporter at Alhurra, an American-funded television station, said press club members were invited to cover U.S.-led reconstruction efforts, such as restored sewage plants and newly-opened schools. The syndicate of 25 to 30 freelance reporters and staff employees for television stations and newspapers were paid about $25 for each story and $45 if the piece ran with photos, al-Hamdani said. Television reporters were paid $50 for pieces, he said. He said he did not participate.

Another view:

Some of the bravest men and women in Iraq never carried a weapon or fired a shot. Their pictures are above. I would like to show you their faces, but that would only make them targets of the hateful, fanatical cowards who are the terrorists in Iraq. In fact, some of the people you see in the picture have already fallen victim to the small cells murderous Islamo-Facists operating in Baghdad. What was their crime you ask? Simply daring to report the truth as Iraqi journalists. These are some of the brave members of the now famous Baghdad Press Club.

These brave men and women were neither pro-American or pro-Iraqi Government. They were simply pro-truth. With help from the US Army, the received cameras, tape recorders and transportation. Yet, they were never told what to print.

For their courage, they were threatened, stalked and in some cases, killed by the terrorists for what they wrote. Yet, they never shrank from there calling despite it all. They were the bravest men and women in Iraq.

First founded by a few brave Iraqi journalists, the Baghdad Press Club was later organized and grew under the guidance and advocacy of Major John Fuhrman and the other members of the 122nd MPAD. The club's members came directly from the inteligencia of Baghdad with former physicians, lawyers, engineers and professors leaving the safety of their former professions to pick up pens, microphones and cameras to tell the story of their burgeoning democracy.

The 122nd MPAD (the quote above is from was the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (MPAD) of the Washington State Army National Guard.

At this point, I only have a question - is the fact of the 122nd MPAD's existence a reason for criticism, or should the government be criticized if they refuse to deploy a 122nd MPAD?

Plus a second question - should Mika Brzezinski and Andy Jones be deployed to Iraq?


Sphere: Related Content