Sunday, August 28, 2005

Let "Saint Paul" do it

Posted by Craig Westover | 1:09 PM |  

I read the article "Blog Brings the War Home" on the independent war coverage of Michael Yon in the Star Tribune and was going to blog about it. But I reconsidered, for I knew there was someone that would do it better.

Brian “Saint Paul” Ward did not disappoint.

From its MSM perspective, the Strib concluded that new technology was changing the way war was covered. But isn’t that same technology available to traditional media sources? Brian raises the more pertinent question --
The real curiosity of this story isn't the new technology allowing greater information to get to the public. It's why the old technology (newspapers) have stopped providing it and have largely shirked the duty they once eagerly accepted.

Even Michael Yon's sterling reporting isn't a new thing. War correspondence has a proud tradition in journalism. Reporters like Ernie Pyle lived and fought and sometimes died, side-by-side with our soldiers (read some of his WWII columns here). They provided the kind of first-person, day-to-day accounts of the war the folks at home need to really understand what is at stake and how we're faring.

For whatever reason, the newspaper monopolies of today no longer provide that kind of coverage. Instead of Ernie Pyle, we have the likes of Hannah Allam, the Knight Ridder Bureau chief, getting plaudits for her reports of the war (which she files in between getting manicures and singing karaoke). And when the going got really tough, she left, only then expressing concern that perhaps she wasn't giving a full picture of what is going on in Iraq. (No word on whether that means she's returning her Knight Ridder Journalism Excellence Award.)

Yet Allam's brand of war correspondance is still considered unassailable truth by most of her colleagues in the press.
Case in point, I give you the immediate criticism directed at Pioneer Press Associate Editor Mark Yost for his column on MSM coverage of the Iraq war and then a sudden curtailment of any meaningful discussion of the issue. The Strib quotes a respected MSM source --
As [Yon's] story finds an instant audience on the Internet, Paul Grabowitz, director of the new media studies program at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, says blogs are permanently changing war coverage.

"It's much easier, obviously, for a freelancer to publish information that they've gotten for a story, whether text or photos or whatever," he said. "And it's not like somebody standing on a street corner passing out flyers that they mimeographed of 'My thoughts on the war in Iraq.' The Internet has lent credence ... to people who are independent, being part of the sort of mix of coverage of an event. ... I don't know how far that's going to go."
Brian takes Grabowitz apart.
Anyone reading Yon's work knows it is anything but "easy" for him to publish his information. Beyond the physical risks he's taking daily by operating in a combat zone, he has no institutional resources to rely upon. He pays for his own travel and equipment and relies upon his own journalistic instincts and ethical code alone for the accuracy and quality of his reporting. In truth, what he's doing is more difficult than the work assigned to any MSM reporter in Iraq. And he's still far out performing them all.
Brian does an outstanding bit of analysis -- but then maybe he just has better technology available that the Strib.