Friday, November 30, 2007

Read past the lede

Another one of those "yes-but" heds. Iran missiles could reach key targets is technically true but misses the why-is-this-story-in-the-paper question, which is captured in the hed that runs inside with the full story:

Despite U.S. bluster, little known about Iran's missiles
There's no consensus on number or range of weapons, report says

It'd be nice to work in a third "no consensus" point, which is that not everyone starts from the assumption that Iran's sole -- and undeterrable -- purpose in developing extended-range missiles is to pop 'em at America's Heartland at the first opportunity. And it's a hair disingenuous to make Iran's current missile arsenal the lede without the qualifier found in the full story:

Yes, Iran has medium-range ballistic missiles that could reach U.S. air and naval bases in the Persian Gulf and possibly hit Israel or southern Europe.

The "Yes" helps soften the implication that all this is brand-new. Air and naval bases in the Persian Gulf, after all, are by definition "in the Persian Gulf," where Iran and Iraq fought a hugely destructive eight-year war back in the 1980s. And what the article is building up to is this:

The yes, no and maybes are about all international defense analysts can offer when it comes to separating proven capabilities from propaganda in the debate over Iran's ballistic missiles.

As noted earlier in the month, this sort of thing isn't particularly outstanding as far as journalistic enterprise goes (and it's badly let down by the careless hed in the 1A reefer). But it is an exceptionally welcome bit of routine journalism. It keeps the space for debate from being reduced to "bomb 'em now" and "no, bomb 'em yesterday," and over time, that's no small accomplishment.

Again, if this is the sort of stuff you'd like to see more of in your mainstream media, drop somebody a note and say you appreciate it. Some poor editor is probably just longing for an excuse to spike a Missing Pregnant Woman story and put some real news in the paper in its place.

You can help that editor. Or you can turn the page.



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