AP: We "dropped the ball" on Downing memo

zimv20

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Salon op/ed

As newspaper editors look back and examine why the controversial Downing Street memo, first published by the Times of London on May 1, received so little coverage in their papers, several of them are pointing to the same culprit: the Associated Press. Editors rely on the worldwide wire service to let them know what's worthy of attention, and that's particularly true for international events. In the case of the Downing Street memo out of London, they say the AP simply failed to cover the story.
Jim Cox, USA Today's senior assignment editor for foreign news, tells Salon that when the story first broke last month, "we looked to wires for guidance" but for days didn't see anything. It was a month before the paper reported on the memo; Cox takes the blame for that omission.

On Sunday, the ombudsman at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune addressed readers' complaints about the paper's lack of Downing memo coverage. According to that account, the paper's nation/world editor, Dennis McGrath, was aware of the memo story when it broke in May, and he and his deputies "began watching for a wire story. A week later, they were still watching. 'We were frustrated the wires weren't providing stories on this,' McGrath said." The paper eventually assigned the story to a local reporter.

At the Portland Oregonian recently, public editor Michael Arrieta-Walden covered the same territory: "For an international story, the Oregonian primarily relies on material provided from about 10 wire services. The Associated Press, the world's largest newsgathering organization, essentially didn't cover the document in its reports until last weekend in a story mostly about John Bolton, Bush's nominee to become U.N. ambassador. The document then was reported on in an AP story stemming from last week's news conference involving Blair and Bush."

"The original story broke on a Sunday, so it was initially difficult to match without access to government officials and documents," said Nick Tatro, the AP's deputy international editor. Then, the AP editors who repeatedly considered doing a story, he said, didn't necessarily see the document as a clear-cut case of proving the manipulation of intelligence. Also, the demands of other important stories kept diverting them, he said. "Our people felt it wasn't a completely clear comment from the raw material," Tatro said. "It was our intent to do a story, and it just didn't happen."

In response to a request for comment, Deborah Seward, AP's international editor, conceded to Salon in an e-mail, "Yes, there is no question AP dropped the ball in not picking up on the Downing Street memo sooner."

Seward deserves credit for admitting AP's error. But a more pressing question remains about the media at large: Why, in the face of the clearly newsworthy memo -- which made international headlines and went straight to the issue of how and why President Bush decided to invade Iraq -- did senior editors and producers at virtually every major American news outlet let the story slip through the cracks?
i think this helps explain some things, though not all. it's interesting to me to learn just how much direction papers take from the wires in terms of what's news and not.

i also wonder, with all the corporate takeovers of papers, how much cost-cutting has affected their ability to cover all the stories they want to.
 

skunk

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zimv20 said:
it's interesting to me to learn just how much direction papers take from the wires in terms of what's news and not.
It's worrying to think that you only have to knobble ten wire services to kill a story outright. Diversity of sources is our only protection against news manipulation.
 

mactastic

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Why, in the face of the clearly newsworthy memo -- which made international headlines and went straight to the issue of how and why President Bush decided to invade Iraq -- did senior editors and producers at virtually every major American news outlet let the story slip through the cracks?
Why? Because it didn't involve a blowjob, or an attractive missing white woman of course! Some liberal media we've got.
 

Dont Hurt Me

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Tell me Big Business doesnt run the whole show from Govt and Military to what is and isnt in the News and ill call you a liar. Its clear to most folks with IQ's above frogs that he wanted Iraq before 911. Now lets hear that republican spin and dogma. Face it we have a Big Time spinmaster leading the Republican Army of lemmings. Heck most of these people think Saddam did 911.
 

MontyZ

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Jan 7, 2005
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All this proves is that the press is lazy. If an everyday citizen can get info about this memo online and read it for themselves, how difficult would it be for a reporter to do a little reporting? They have no problem letting a male prostitute pretending to be a reporter on their news shows, but, they can't seem to manage a simple search on Google to investigate the biggest smoking gun about the lies we've all been fed. Probably because they are all themselves complicit.

WIMPS!
 

solvs

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Jun 25, 2002
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I would say that it's our fault because the press is only giving us what we want. Sensationalism. It sells papers, gets ratings. Pandering to the lowest common denominator brings in the money.

But I thought journalism was supposed to be about more than that. Guess I was wrong. Partisan hacks, and slaves to the corporate world. Brave new world people, better get used to it. Look at what CNet did to TV Tome.
 

Don't panic

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Jan 30, 2004
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MontyZ said:
...Probably because they are all themselves complicit.

WIMPS!
that is the point. there was no 'mistake' of sorts. mainstream media is embedded in the conservative propaganda machinery.
there is no independent press to speak of among the "big guys" here (let alone liberal) and it has been like that for a while.
they added more and more ultra-right (a la fox) so they can call all the moderate conservatives "leftist".
to get any appearance of balanced news we have to go to international sources, and possibly a several of them.
 

MontyZ

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solvs said:
I would say that it's our fault because the press is only giving us what we want. Sensationalism. It sells papers, gets ratings. Pandering to the lowest common denominator brings in the money.
I don't think it's what WE want, it's what THEY want because they feel they can make more money. Plus, everything is scripted for the spokesmodels who read the news these days. There is no reporting. A press release from the White House is read verbatim as truth and news. Nothing is challenged or questioned, not even the most outrageous and ludicrous statements and lies. And now the most incredible pieces of evidence surface that Bush outright lied to the entire country, and it just gets shrugged off.

Did anyone see the reaming Tony Blair took when he had his version of a town hall meeting before the UK election? That could never happen here now -- unless the President was a Democrat. Then it's open season, all guns blazing. Maybe the Dems should just try to convince Americans that Bush is really a Democrat. He'd be thrown in jail faster than a young black man.

The hypocrisy is disgusting.
 

mactastic

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Don't panic said:
to get any appearance of balanced news we have to go to international sources, and possibly a several of them.
That's key anyway. Getting your news from any one or two sources is bad IMHO. You have to look around and sift through what you find and put it in as much context as you can and then try and make your own evaluations about what is going on in the world.

Also, I would say that there definely is a lefty media out there... if you dig deep enough. You just won't find it in the MSM the way the right can. But there are lefty blogs and magazines and a little radio now. It's just a tiny fraction of what the righties control however. Just compare Rush's audience size to any lefty radio host's.
 

Xtremehkr

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CNN actually convered the DSM this morning. Unfortunately it was with the tenacity of Grandma attacking a 72oz steak.
 

LethalWolfe

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MontyZ said:
I don't think it's what WE want, it's what THEY want because they feel they can make more money.
It's what the general population wants whether they admit it or not. Sensationalism isn't successful because no one watches it. Unfortunately showmanship has become a selling point for news. Why? Because, as a society, we let showmanship be a selling point for news.


Lethal
 

skunk

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LethalWolfe said:
It's what the general population wants whether they admit it or not.
The general population realize that if they really knew what was being done in their name, they'd all go and hang themselves. So they allow the media to persuade them everything's ok. The Matrix lives on.
 

IJ Reilly

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Jul 16, 2002
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More about "dropped balls" from Editor & Publisher:

The Pentagon Papers of Our Time?
The so-called Downing Street memos, now seven in number, have been dismissed by some in the press as "old news," but the same could be said of the Pentagon Papers when they were published. As in the previous case, the shock value comes from their official nature, and they bring key questions about deceit and poor judgment in the run-up to the Iraq war back to the forefront for public debate.

By William E. Jackson, Jr.

(June 17, 2005) -- On public radio this week, Walter Pincus, the senior national security reporter for The Washington Post, posed the question: if the statements in the various Downing Street memos are to be dismissed as "old" news--since preparing to go to war in Iraq and questions about intelligence were already "conventional wisdom" and published as such in 2002--then why was so much made of the Pentagon Papers back in the 1970s when reporters knew early on, and were writing, that the Vietnam war was a disaster in which the U.S. had made a string of mistakes?

Ironically, it is the same New York Times which bravely published the Pentagon Papers that, as recently as today, is still treating the Downing Street Papers as merely fodder for “antiwar” types.

Even though their importance has been dismissed, or played down, by both the Bush Administration and several leaders of the mainstream news media in the United States, the British government memos leaked to Michael Smith of the Sunday Times of London do constitute “primary” sources from near the heart of government when composing the first draft of an authoritative history of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Moreover, all the key questions about the deceit and lack of judgment by the Administration when making the case for war are back on the table for public debate.

Comparable American official documents, at the National Security Council level, have yet to be leaked. The introduction of a Congressional resolution this week calling for military withdrawal from Iraq, and plummeting public support for Bush and U.S. Iraq policies, are bound to encourage leaks from dissident voices within the White House and the bureaucracies.

...
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/shoptalk_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000963759
 

Dont Hurt Me

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What were the Democrats doing during all of this I Wonder? Prepping a Senator with no record except he was a hero in Vietnam? America hates Senators as Presidents Just as America hates being lied to. Bush is Over and the Republicans know it, But 5 years of Damage is 5 years of Damage, This is why we cant let either party run the whole show because they are both lost in their extremisms and special Interests.. They Both Suck but Republicans suck Worse at the moment.
 

skunk

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It seems to me as if this is as near to prima facie evidence of conspiracy to take your country to war on false pretenses as you could get, short of Bush putting up his hands and saying "It's a fair cop". How much does it take to get an impeachment going? The world doesn't need another three years of this crap.
 

IJ Reilly

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skunk said:
It seems to me as if this is as near to prima facie evidence of conspiracy to take your country to war on false pretenses as you could get, short of Bush putting up his hands and saying "It's a fair cop". How much does it take to get an impeachment going? The world doesn't need another three years of this crap.
Essentially, an opposition majority in Congress. IOW, it isn't going to happen.
 

Dont Hurt Me

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So what we have is a President who clearly wanted Iraq before 911, and a congress of republicans who well let this NeoCon do whatever he wants even if its wrong or illegal. 911= Iraq,Osama = Saddam, and other spin. Democrats should be shouting at the top of their lungs but they arent. Why? because the Haliburtons,the Enrons and Boeing give as much money to the Democrats as Republicans. Congress doesnt represent people of America, Congress Represents Special Interest Corporations of the U.S.. Democracy for sale is as Bad as no Democracy.
 

Desertrat

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I read what's purported to be The Memo. It appears that the damning part is the bit about fixed on intelligence about WMDs or some such wording. (I don't have the memo saved.)

This can be read to mean that the intelligence about WMDs was manipulated or changed.

It also can be read to mean that "fixed" was used in the sense of "focussed". If this latter usage is what was meant, it would explain the apparent lack of concern on the part of those at the meeting.

'Rat
 

skunk

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Desertrat said:
I read what's purported to be The Memo. It appears that the damning part is the bit about fixed on intelligence about WMDs or some such wording. (I don't have the memo saved.)

This can be read to mean that the intelligence about WMDs was manipulated or changed.

It also can be read to mean that "fixed" was used in the sense of "focussed". If this latter usage is what was meant, it would explain the apparent lack of concern on the part of those at the meeting.

'Rat
Perhaps you should have read it more carefully:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
Hardly ambiguous.
 

IJ Reilly

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Even if you can successfully argue for a more benign definition of "fixed" (perhaps our British English speakers can clear up any semantical differences between the way this word is used here vs. in Britain), the Downing Street Memo and the other associated documents make two important things perfectly clear:

(1) It was recognized that an invasion of Iraq for the purpose of regime change was a clear violation of international law, and that some method would have to be found to divert around this roadblock, and;

(2) That Bush had every intention of invading Iraq as early as March 2002, but deliberately misled both the Congress and the American people about his firm decision to do so for most of the following 12 months.

I could add any number of damning facts the memos reveal, such as the effort to set up weapons inspections not as an effort to actually determine if Saddam had weapson, but as fig leaf for the invasion, but I suppose that can wait until we settle the all-important question of the relative meaning of the word "fixed" in the context in which it was used.
 

Desertrat

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I don't see the semantics of "fixed" as "all important", IJ. It was just a point that had me curious. As far as your two points, I'll have to go back and read the memo again. It's been a while.

Edit add about Point 1: Does International Law prohibit only unilateral action, or does it apply also to UN action? Or, is any action (by I.L. or the UN) limited to repelling invasion?

This sorta ties in to the question about UN Resolutions: If they are ignored, how else but via regime change can they be enforced?

And how is regime change in Iraq so different than regime change in the Balkans?

'Rat