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Public Editor Criticizes 'NYT' Syria Coverage | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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Public Editor Criticizes 'NYT' Syria Coverage


A man inspects a site hit by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets. (Reuters/Nour Fourat)

Margaret Sullivan, public editor, again proved her worth today, raising questions (her own and from readers) about the New York Times coverage of the run-up to the likely coming attack on Syria.

I’ve done this for awhile (months) myself on blogs and Twitter and as recently as today, noting Michael Gordon’s return to the top of the home page—remember, he was Judy Miller’s co-author on some of her worst Iraq pieces. Now Sullivan rightly suggests that the paper’s editorial page has been pretty cautious on the claims and wisdom of launching an attack, but its news pages too often seem to be seeing things through the eyes of the insiders and the administration.

She comments, “While The Times has offered deep and rich coverage from both Washington and the Syrian region, the tone cannot be described as consistently skeptical.” (Note: My book on how the Times and others failed on Iraq, So Wrong for So Long. My other WMD-related book: Atomic Cover-up.)

Quote of the day in her piece from the Times’s number-two editor, Dean Baquet, on the paper blowing Iraq WMD coverage and helping to get us into ten-year war: “It was a long, long, time ago.”

And this: Baquet, asked about advising reporters about what happened a decade ago: “I’ve never said, ‘Let’s remember what happened with Iraq.’"

Interestingly, the Associated Press has had a couple of tough pieces in recent days on the Syria claims and the down side of an attack—and it seems that editors there did remind staff about what went on with the Iraq fiasco in 2002-2003.

UPDATE: In what we'll assume is pure coincidence, the Times—later than most other top outlets—finally not only published a piece late last night on experts warning about risks of attack, but placed it at the top of its Web site.

And Times' editorial for Saturday:

As President Obama moves toward unilateral military action in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 1,400 people, he is doing so without legal justification and without the backing of two key institutions, Congress and the United Nations Security Council. Both have abdicated their roles in dealing with this crisis....

Mr. Obama’s ability to muster broad backing for immediate action was harmed by the British vote, leaving only France promising cooperation. Even in the best of circumstances, military action could go wrong in so many ways; the lack of strong domestic and international support will make it even more difficult.

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The case against military intervention in Syria.

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