There have been a fair number of pixels devoted to the discussion over St. Paul Pioneer Press editorialist Mark Yost’s criticism of media coverage of the Iraq war. Yost wrote:
I know the reporting’s bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When’s the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.
I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren’t so blinded by their own politics that they can’t see the real good we’re doing there. More important, they can see beyond their own navel and see the real good we’re doing to promote peace and prosperity in the world. What makes this all the more ironic is the fact that the people who are fighting and dying want to stay and the people who are merely observers want to cut and run….
Instead, we get Monday’s front-page story about a “secret” memo about “emerging U.S. plans” to withdraw troops next year. Why isn’t the focus of the story the fact that 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces are stable and the four that aren’t are primarily home to the genocidal gang of thugs who terrorized that country for 30 years?
And reporters wonder why they’re despised.
Fair criticism, I’d think.
But over in Romensko’s letters, Steve Lovelady seethes:
Amazing. Mark Yost, an [editorial page] editor at Knight Ridder, the ONE news outlet which has consistently exposed the lies at the heart of the Iraq invasion and the grim reality of the current occupation, turns on his colleagues.
I can’t wait to see how the KR Washington bureau and the KR Iraq
contingent reponds to this one!
There he is, guys. Go get him. You owe your readers no less.
What is amazing about this is that Lovelady is the managing editor of the friggin’ Columbia Journalism Review Daily. You’d think that he would welcome intelligent, reasoned, two-sided discussion about media’s coverage of this controverial story. Instead, he acts like the fat kid on the playground egging on the bullies in a fight.
And we certainly know where the Columbia Journalism Review stands on war coverage, don’t we now?
But I’d like to see a real discussion on this. So I’ll egg on a fight, but one fought without eggs: I would love to see a debate between Yost and Lovelady. I just emailed them both:
How about engaging in a debate on Iraq war coverage in American media?
Steve Lovelady: I found your snipe at Romenesko to be, well, unsatisfying. It did not address the issues raised by Mark Yost.
Mark Yost: I would like to see you engage Steve and those who believe as he does.
So how about a debate, sirs? I suggest an email debate. I’ll be happy to post your responses on Buzzmachine.
First question, if you are willing:
Is American media coverage of the Iraq war balanced? Or do American media harbor an agenda in its coverage — and if so, what agenda? Do American news media succeed — or even try — to present the positive and the negative news coming out of Iraq? Is there an obligation to be balanced? Or do you believe that balance would present an inaccurate picture of the news there?
I’ll let you know when and if I get responses. Meanwhile, please give your own in the comments.
: LATER: Steve Lovelady emails:
I’ll have to decline, on several counts.
First, if I were going to debate Yost, I would want to do it at CJR
Daily, not at Buzzmachine, for obvious reasons.
Second, if you think my “snipe” at Romenesko did not address the
issues Mark raised — when in fact I spent my entire letter
pointing out that the very specific and detailed Iraq coverage of
his OWN newspaper chain puts the lie to his careless accusations –
then you most assuredly would find my stance in any further debate
Third, if what I currently read on Romenesko is any indication, poor
Yost already has enough fires to put out within the trade — and
most especially within his own shop. I think the kindest thing any
of us can do at the moment is to leave the hapless lad to stew in
his own juices.
He’s in it deep, and it’s going to take a while to wade out.
ps –Another option for you: Try David Cay Johnston, at the Times.
In a rather clinical but systematic manner, he pretty much
disemboweled Yost on Romenesko today after doing three minutes’
research on the Internet.
: And who says journalists are dispassionate? Everybody in this argument is seething and spitting and acting like they’re on the playground still. There is a legitimate debate to be had over coverage of the war in Iraq. I don’t see it yet.
: LATER STILL: Mr. Lovelady emails again and I quote in full:
There’s another reason not to engage in a debate with the most
unfortunate Mr. Yost:
The prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Take a fresh look at Romenesko. This poor bastard has become the
pinata of the day.
Latest to weigh in:
* Charles Laszewski, a Pioneer-Press colleague of Yost;
* Clark Hoyt, KR Washington bureau chief (who addresses his remarks
not only to Yost but to the editors of all 33 KR papers, which
tells you something about Mr. Yost’s future);
* and Hannah Allam, KR’s eloquent Iraq bureau chief.
All of whom, as it happens, speak with lethal precision about the
matter at hand.
My guess is that by Monday Mr. Yost will be too busy standing in
line outside the St. Paul unemployment office to engage in
leisurely Internet debates.
Which, frankly, is as it should be. He’s a right-wing shill who
belittled and betrayed the hundreds of reporters who go into harm’s
way every day to tell us what the hell is really going on.
ps — Please consider this on the record too. In fact, if you’d
publish it, I’d be grateful
So anyone who questions the party line, the orthodoxy, the company way, the union line should be banished to unemployment? Whew.
Can American media’s coverage of Iraq be questioned and judged? I would have thought that the answer should be, “of course.” But the answer is, “of course not.”
What a fine lesson in journalism this is.
: AND HE KEEPS EMAILING: Another missive from Mr. Lovelady, quoted in full:
This one takes the cake.
What an intellectually dishonest schmuck you are.
I supply you with
* Charles Laszewski, a Pioneer-Press colleague of Yost, who is
embarrassed at even being in the same building with the guy and who
eloquently explains why;
* Clark Hoyt, KR Washington bureau chief, who has for two years led
KR’s groundbreaking coverage of the Iraq lie in Washington;
* Hannah Allam, KR’s brave and brilliant Baghdad bureau chief, who
daily lives a life that would turn Mark Yost into a sniveling worm
hiding under his bed.
* David Cay Johnston, your colleague at the New York Times, who
demolishes Yost after 3 minutes on the Internet collecting contrary
And you accuse me of wanting to avoid discussion ?
These four are far more eloquent than I at exposing Mark Yost as the
fraud, safely ensconced (for the moment) in an air-conditioned
office in St. Paul, than I could ever be.
How much “intelligent, reasoned, two-side discussion” do you want?
I gave you enough to last a week, Bubba.
Shame on you.
I still see the kid on the playground, not the experienced, dispassionate journalist and academic open to criticism of journalism; he collects links of those who agree with him in trying to lambast this guy Yost. Keep the email coming, Steve.
I am asking whether there is room to question and criticize American media’s coverage of the war in Iraq. I believe there is. Lovelady et al appearently believe there is not. Whether or not Yost is the ideal critic, I don’t know. But an earnest discussion of the successes and failures and issues and shortcomings of coverage of the war should always be in order. And that’s why I find it doubly shocking that the managing editor of the Columbia Journalism School’s CJR Daily only seems interested in attacking this critic. Aren’t there legitimate issues here to discuss? I think there are.