The real story

The real story
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Today, USA Today reports that ABC News and Time are joining to create “a series of in-depth reports in November on how the war in Iraq is affecting ordinary Iraqis.” Says ABC News President David Westin:

”I’ve been troubled for some time about the reporting of all news organizations on the situation in Iraq,” he wrote. ”We often seem to be captive to the individual dramatic incident — and those of us in television subject to one that comes with great video.

”ABC News is now going to address this conspicuous lacking in the reporting to date,” Westin wrote. ”Our goal is essentially to conduct an audit across several parts of Iraq, gauging the quality of life for the average citizen.”

Now on the one hand, you might want to clap Westin on the back and say, good for you, sir, finally getting deeper into the story.

But here’s what’s wrong with this:

They shouldn’t have to launch a damned task force to do this reporting.

They should be doing this reporting every day of the week.

What life is like in Iraq is a good and essential story and most organizations haven’t been reporting it. They are, instead, as Westin says, reporting the “dramatic incident” — the bombings, the deaths — and, of course, they should be reporting that. But they should be doing more.

They should have their reporters who are there out wandering the streets, meeting the people, finding the stories from all perspectives of life in a new Iraq.

You don’t need a damned “audit” to figure out why that isn’t being done and to fix it.

The stories aren’t being done for one of two simple reasons: The reporters aren’t reporting it or the producers/editors aren’t letting them through.

And everybody’s sticking with the pack: The pack of reporters reporting the same stories, the pack of networks and news organizations running the same stories.

You fix that by having assigning editors tell reporters to get out and get stories about what it’s like on the ground there; bring the sense of the place home; give me many interviews, many perspectives, many stories.

This big “in-depth report” strategy is really just a PR move to get ABC off the hook for not doing this.

And it will skew the story. It presumes that one series of reports will tell the real story and then we can forget it and go back to business as usual. Wrong.

You get the real story by reporting the real story every damned day of the week.

: UPDATE: Here’s a Gallup poll of people in Iraq.

The Gallup poll found that 71 percent of the capital city’s residents felt U.S. troops should not leave in the next few months. Just 26 percent felt the troops should leave that soon.