Saturday, June 18, 2005

Keep Pushing the Media on the Downing Street Memos

Our friend Arthur Maisel sent us this email yesterday (Friday):

Please call or e-mail the New York Times to complain about the placement of their article on page 13 today, with no mention of either Conyers or Congress (only "an anti-war group") in the headline. (212) 556-1234;

You might want to follow up on Arthur's suggestion. I decided to write to the paper's new Public Editor:

Dear Byron Calame,

I want to add my voice to the others I imagine you're hearing from to protest the very modest space and placement given by the Times to the ongoing story of the Downing Street memo, and in particular to the hearings being conducted by Representative Conyers.In my opinion, taking the nation to war on false pretenses and trumped-up intelligence is an impeachable offense, and the American media--including the Times--did a terrible job of covering this story while it was happening. Now, three years after the fact, efforts to expose the truth deserve better coverage than a story on the bottom of page A13 that also covered several other topics related to public opinion in Iraq.

I'd like to see the Times begin to play the kind of courageous role it played, along with the Washington Post, in the era of Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate.

Karl Weber

The coverage in the Times could be worse. According to this diary on Daily Kos by John Conyers himself, the story in the Washington Post was positively derisive, mocking the Democrats who conducted the hearings, cherry-picking quotations to make the participants sound extremist and unserious, and even making fun of the small, out-of-the-way meeting room, which was of course the only venue made available by the Republicans who run Congress.

By the way, those of us who were always skeptical about Bush's rush to war may be inclined to lend some credence to the excuse being made by many in the MSM for neglecting the Downing Street story--that it's old news because "everybody" knew that the administration was hell-bent on war.

For some of us, it is old news; distrusting Bush, we suspected all along that he'd made up his mind to invade long before publicly announcing the decision. But it's simply false to assert that "everybody" or even a significant portion of the American public shared our perception. If you doubt that, check out Joe Conason's column in Salon citing numerous editorials and op-eds from WaPo and the Times which credulously repeated Bush's false assertions about diligently seeking an alternative to war.

If "everybody" knew that Bush was lying, "everybody" didn't include the editors of our two leading national papers--or else they knew but didn't see fit to share the information with their readers. Either way, it was a dismal episode in the history of American journalism.
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