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Burying the good news

Posted by Richard on November 8, 2007

Apparently, the front page of The New York Times is reserved for covering global warming, the (perennially) impending recession, and bad news from Iraq. Good news from Iraq has to figuratively sit in the back of the bus. From Newsbusters (emphasis in original):

When Rush Limbaugh opened today's show by mentioning that the New York Times had relegated to page A19 the story of the ridding of Al Qaeda-in-Iraq from all of Baghdad, I actually thought he might be joking. Surely not even the Times could be so brazenly biased as to bury such a huge story reflecting the success of the surge. But, sure enough, Rush was right. A19 is exactly the location to which the Times exiled the story. And to further reduce the number of people who would learn the good news, the paper stuck this bland headline on the story: "Rebel Unit Now Out of Baghdad, U.S. General Asserts". The headline of the online version of the story, "Militant Group Is Out of Baghdad, U.S. Says," differs slightly, but the text is the same.

Yeah. It was just some "rebel unit" or "militant group" that the MNF has driven out of all of Baghdad: AL-FREAKING-QAEDA!

"Rebel Unit," indeed — it's just amazing what lengths the NYT editors will go to in order to avoid the obvious headline, "Al Qaeda Driven Out of Baghdad."

The Washington Post, not to be outdone in terms of burying the good news, relegated this story to page A20:

BAGHDAD, Nov. 7 — The drop in violence caused by the U.S. troop increase in Iraq has prompted refugees to begin returning to their homes, American and Iraqi officials said Wednesday.

Tahsin al-Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman, said 46,030 displaced Iraqis had returned last month from outside the country to their homes in the capital. He declined to comment on how the government determined those statistics.

"People are starting to return to their homes," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad. "There's no question about it." 

The quote from Maj. Gen. Fil is from the same luncheon with reporters that the NYTimes story cited. WaPo not only buried the whole story one page deeper, they didn't mention the general's remarks about driving out al Qaeda until the 7th paragraph.

Here's something else I noticed: The NYTimes story described al Qaeda in Iraq as "the homegrown Sunni extremist group that American intelligence agencies say is foreign-led," and the WaPo story described it as "a largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group that U.S. officials say they believe is led by foreigners."

These aren't wire service stories, and they don't appear to share any authors — the NYT story is by Damien Cave, with contributions from Baghdad by Khalid al-Ansary, Anwar J. Ali, and Mudhafer al-Husaini; the WaPo story is by Amit R. Paley, with contributions from "Zaid Sabah and Dalya Hassan in Baghdad, Saad Sarhan in Najaf and other Washington Post staff in Iraq." I suppose the NYTimes' Iraqi contributors could also be the "other" WaPo contributors. But I suspect the nearly identical descriptions are simply media group-think.

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