This was perplexing, because Zeyad and other Iraqi bloggers promoted the march on their sites days in advance. But is Baghdad bureau chief Susan Sachs or her staff even aware of Iraq’s postwar blogs?
I contacted Daniel Okrent on this, and he called Sachs in Baghdad, then related her answer back to me:
“She says that the staff — including people who monitor the wires, the police radio, the military, the CPA, [Coalition Provisional Authority] the Iraqi Governing Council, the Arabic TV and Arabic Web sites — does not check blogs on a regular basis. One of the office staff sometimes run across them when doing Google or other similar searches.”
Okrent notes that Ghaith Abdul Ahad, a friend of the original Baghdad blogger Salam Pax, publishes a blog called Gee in Baghdad, and is on the Times’ Baghdad staff. (As was Salam himself, for a time.) Ahad’s blog, however, has not been updated since September.
As for Sachs, Okrent tells me by e-mail, “Susan says she personally does not refer to the blogs.”
A direct response from Sachs did not arrive by press time. Daniel Okrent did however put me in touch with acting foreign editor Alison Smale, for more background.
In the Times’ defense, Smale cites the bureau’s stretched resources on Dec. 10. While declining to speak for Sachs, she tells me by e-mail, “I can say that it is often, though not always, more effective to send an e-mail than to rely on people logging on to blogs. In general, of course, the point you make is valid — they offer important tips, if not always instantly verifiable facts.”
Still don’t buy it. There are only a dozen blogs in English in Iraq — easy to read and damned well worth reading to find out what real people there say.
The proper response should have been: Boy, we were stupid not to read those blogs. We learned our lesson. We will now. But no….