Monday, March 10, 2008

Oh, those documents!

Hey, here's a nice follow-up story from our friends at McClatchy. Wonder how it'll play on the front pages tomorrow:

WASHINGTON — An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

So why is that a big deal?

He and others spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because the study isn't due to be shared with Congress and released before Wednesday.

Middle East trivia trying to be yesterday's news two days in advance again, eh? Well, good thing Oprah got that little iProblem with "A New Earth" worked out, but the competition for 1A is still going to be pretty fierce.

One does kind of hope this one is rewarded with some prominence. When it's not playing fast and loose with survey data, the McClatchy Washburo is continuing to do nice old-fashioned stuff like following up on big developments and writing stories about them. Indeed, it was kind of interesting to see all the 1A play today for AP's coverage on estimated long-term costs of the Iraq war, given that MCT did a fairly commendable job with it nearly two weeks ago (even the Freep, whose 1A lede today was about people who buy their own health insurance, gave it a decent ride).

One improvement by the AP is worth noting: Less space given to White House comments. Here's McClatchy being fair and balanced:

The White House doesn't care for the estimates by Stiglitz, a former chief economist of the World Bank who's now a professor at Columbia University.

"People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure. One can't even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9-11," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, conceding that the costs of the war on terrorism are high while questioning the premise of Stiglitz's research.

"It is also an investment in the future safety and security of Americans and our vital national interests. $3 trillion? What price does Joe Stiglitz put on attacks on the homeland that have already been prevented? Or doesn't his slide rule work that way?"

If, having wasted a few minutes on the call, you can't bring yourself to leave Mr. Fratto's breathtaking inanities out altogether, here's an objective suggestion:

A White House spokesman called one of the authors a coward but declined to comment on the estimates themselves.

Should he want to complain about the paraphrase, I'd be happy to take his call.


Blogger Andy Bechtel said...

The N&O boiled down the story into a three-sentence textbox that ran with the day's Iraq roundup on 3A. It's possible that they will do more with it once the report is released and sources have names.

1:39 PM, March 11, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

Tnx. I missed it when I skimmed the Web site. (Charlotte had it as the first of two briefs.)

Without knowing any more, I'm tempted to speculate that the N&O overapplied its sourcing policy again. But that's probably a different discussion.

5:41 PM, March 11, 2008  
Blogger Andy Bechtel said...

The textboxes created by the N&O wire desk don't always make it to the Web.

On the sourcing policy, you may be correct. Of course, all sorts of anonymous sources show up on the N&O Web site because the wires are on autopilot there.

12:40 PM, March 12, 2008  

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