Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Forbidden ledes: Experts edition

Those who look back fondly on Judith Miller's nuanced, incisive yet evenhanded Near East reporting will be happy to know they can catch up over at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

Not since the Sermon on the Mount has a speech in the Middle East been so anticipated.

"Not since" ledes (fellow toilers in the Knight-Ridder vineyards might recognize them as Fruit of the Washburo) are the tool of a particular kind of weak writer: the one who can't be bothered to do the footwork but wants to get by on the sheer sonority of the proclamation. So let's avoid getting bogged down in whether Matthew or Luke has the better sense of the crowd that may or may not have been gathering for the Sermon on the Mount; let's talk about those intervening two millennia. Has anything happened over in the Fractious Near East that we ought to take notice of?

To be a perfectly annoying copy editor about it all, it only takes one speech to knock a hole in the lede, so -- how about Sadat's address to the Knesset? Yeah, that might do. Or, at least, it might suggest that experts who want to enlighten us about That Part of the World should start with the assumption that Those People know their neighborhood pretty well. We already know what Judith Miller thinks, and it doesn't seem to have helped. Imagine if journalism turned its attention toward people who actually had some vague clue about how the assorted regional actors might see their interests and goals.



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