This is a media rant. I’m not one of those people who are constantly berating the media (the so-called “mainstream media”) for their failings. However, for quite a while I’ve been watching the spiraling downward of the Washington Post coverage of international affairs. But today they hit a new low.
The Saturday, August 22, edition of the Post contains not a single article — count ’em, zero — on anything relating to the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, or the ongoing crisis in Iran.
By way of contrast, the New York Times carried a page one piece on the aftermath of the election in Afghanistan, a lead piece in its international section on the Iranian crisis, focusing on President Ahmadinejad’s problems in assembling a Cabinet for his second term, and a lengthy piece sorting out the pieces left over from the enormous bombings that devastated downtown Baghdad on Wednesday.
These three pieces are not fluff either, but hard news stories contained information that the Post simply ignored.
It gets worse. The Post did manage to scrounge up a story on the release of the Lockerbie bomber to Libya, but the entirety of the story focused on US and British outrage over the release, which Obama called “highly objectionable.” The Times carried a far longer piece that actually reported the news, namely, that British observers and analysts are making concrete charges that London supported the freeing of the prisoner in order to facilitate oil deals with Libya. In contrast to the Post, which contented itself with regurgitating official outrage that a terrorist is once again loose, the Times piece, by John F. Burns, had this gem:
On Friday, Lord Trefgarne, chairman of the Libyan British Business Council, said Mr. Megrahi’s release had opened the way for Britain’s leading oil companies to pursue multibillion-dollar oil contracts with Libya, which had demanded Mr. Megrahi’s return in talks with British officials and business executives.
You might say, well, who cares? Don’t most people get their news from the Internet these days? In fact, it does matter. Hundreds of thousands of people wake up to the print copy of the Washington Post in the morning, and they don’t deserve incompetent editing and reporting. The Post international section has been shrinking, and since they moved their entire business section inside the A section earlier this year, the hole for non-business news seems to have shrunk. The right-wing Washington Times would dearly love to pick up the slack, but their often biased, slanted, and jingoistic reports, filed by hard-right ideologues such as reporter Eli Lake, aren’t trustworthy enough to rely on. Even so, the Washington Times has broken some stories lately, especially on Iran, thanks to a commitment to Iran from editor Barbara Slavin and on-the-scene reporting from Iran and Turkey by Iason Athanasiadis. In any case, the Washington Times circulation is minuscule compared to the monopoly-like Post.
Oh, yes. Headlining the Post world coverage Saturday? “Turkeys in Chile Found to Have Swine Flu.” Now there’s a scoop! Next, maybe, “Chili in Turkey Found to Have Swine Meat”?