Friday, January 09, 2004

Why you (not) frontin'?

It's a well-known conspiracy theory that Karl Rove can pull a headline out of his *ss whenever he needs one in order to offset any really bad news that might take the cover story of the next day's papers. Negative press about the war in Iraq, for instance, is major cause for concern, as is any announcement about any of the ongoing investigations of wrongdoing in the Administration (e.g. Plamegate). Yesterday I theorized that Rover would successfully bury the Helicopter crash and the Carnegie Report that concludes that Bush lied us into war. It seems that, in general, I was wrong? Not good. Well, I guess it might depend on your political stance, but decide for yourself.

The context is this - two potential lead articles for the next day's papers, both of which, by themselves, are devastating articles for the current Administration, but together, could actually wound - could actually make the press corps ask a couple of questions. From a previous post - the headlines are: 1) Copter crash in Iraq kills 9, and 2) Report: No WMD in Iraq. Now, given the importance of current U.S. foreign policy, I would think each of these headlines is massively important - but let's examine the implications of each, in turn:

1) The copter crash shows the escalating nature of the insurgency in Iraq. It is a severe indictment of post-war planning, or lack thereof. The cost of the occupation of Iraq is skyrocketing, and it's hitting American taxpayers in the pocketbook - whether they feel it just yet or not. The situation in Iraq is perilous, and getting moreso every day, it seems. The U.S. and British militaries have already promised to be there for years - the U.S. already making plans to establish long-term military bases there, a la Saudi Arabia. But how much will the occupation continue to cost U.S. taxpayers? How many more innocent Iraqi civilians have to suffer and/or die because of the occupation? How many more U.S. soldiers will be killed in what has become known outside the U.S. as an illegal war of aggression - either for oil or against Muslims?

2) The Carnegie Report concluding that no WMD existed in Iraq prior to the invasion is a devastating indictment of our our intelligence-gathering services, our Administration, or both. Are the intelligence services (e.g. CIA) competent? Was the Administration duplicitous in their bold and sure statements about the existence of Iraq's WMD? The only way the Administration has been able to avoid serious scandal is by owning the major media outlets and by owning both houses of Congress, but these facts don't make this report any less damning. Will the intelligence services be held accountable for their mistakes? Will there be major restructing? Firings? And how about the Administration - will they be held to account for their mendacity? Will there be firings? How about Cheney's covert pipestoving intelligence-gathering and influence-peddling operation inside the Pentagon and at Langley? Will he be held to account for greatly diminishing the profile of once-credible U.S. intelligence? What does such a bleak report on America's intelligence services say about our policy of pre-emptive or limited war? In other words, without reliable intelligence, how can we invade sovereign countries based on perceived threats? And what about that shaky policy of pre-emption? Will it stand the test of time? It's been proven a horrendous failure, yet it is still pimped by the current Administration. Will it be modified in any way, killed outright, or will intelligence-gathering become obsoleted - subservient to the political will of the serving President and his henchmen?

So, in short, I think these articles deserver front-page headlines today, and follow-on headlines every day hereafter until we get to the bottom of all of these issues. Foreign policy is the number one issue heading into the next presidential election - this stuff should be front and center every day.

In doing some research on this topic, I found what seems to be a list of the 'five national newspapers'. They are, in no particular order: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. does a daily today's papers feature with a rundown with what each of these nationals is running, and where. It can be semi-informative on the nature of the editorial reigns at each of these important publications, and is usually accompanied by a catchy article title - e.g. in reference FDA's surprise decision to continue the ban on use of silicone breat implants, just a few weeks after an internal FDA advisory group said they were safe: 'Silicone Volley'.

At the bottom of this feature is a glossary of terms used in the text that are apparently industry terms. It's informative, and useful if you want to talk about information placement.

Here are the ways these above-mentioned articles were covered on each of the papers' front pages, respectively, to the best of my knowlege:

Below I've ranked the coverage of these two major stories in each of the five majors. A grade of 'A' represents, in my opinion, the perfectly fair coverage - no more, no less.

USA TodayC-lead story is the FDA rejection of silicone implants - which I have to admit - is worthy, but above the fold (on the front page) is the Mars stuff - with a massive visual, with significant space dedicated to the copter crash below the fold. No mention of Carnegie Report.
LA TimesBleads with the copter crash; no mention of Carnegie Report.
The Washington PostC stuffs the copter crash down into a tiny box at the bottom right-hand corner of the front page - but provides a picture; no mention of Carnegie Report.
The Wall Street JournalChow can anyone tell what the lead story is in this paper? - mentions the copter crash in a fairly prominent position near the top; no mention of Carnegie Report.
The New York TimesN/AN/A

Those cover pages I did find were at - I can actually get pretty ready access to print editions of all these 5 majors, and should have - will next time for sure!

So, there's seems to be sporadic mention of the Carnegie Report on Iraq - most of the articles that I've found on the net that mention the Report are more concerned with Powell's assertion, like that of Bush's a couple of months ago, that there was no direct evidence linking Iraq and Al Qaeda, despite all the rhetoric. The headlines run something like 'Powell refutes report', or 'Powell says no link'. Powell maintained, of course, that the invasion was necessary.

The first associated press article I read yesterday of the helicopter crash that killed nine GI's was titled something like 'Helicopter forced to make emergency landing. 9 Dead'. Now, you tell me what's wrong with this. I guess eventually the folks at the AP saw the ridiculousness of the title and changed it to something about a 'crash'.

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