John Leo

The blogging world cackled a bit about the mess the Times made, mostly because many bloggers think the most powerful big-time news outlets are becoming more and more partisan. The Times may be on its way to becoming Exhibit A for this belief. Bloggers regularly pummel the Times for fact-free negativity about Iraq. One of the best and best-known bloggers, Mickey Kaus at slate.msn.com, tore apart one of the Times?s front-page we-can?t-win efforts ­- ?Iraqi Insurgency Showing Signs of Momentum; Analysts and some U.S. commanders say it could be too late to reverse the wave of vio­lence.? Kaus pointed out that no U.S. commander said any such thing in the Times report. The allegation was left hang­ing out there with no factual support. Another the-war-is-lost report was a front-page lead on July 6: ?U.S. Response to Insurgency Called a Failure.? It said ?some top Bush administration officials? were criticizing the Pentagon for ?failing to develop a coherent, winning strategy against the insurgency.? But the alleged ?top Bush administration officials? were AWOL in the Times, just like the absent ?U.S. commanders.? Kaus wrote: ?Again, there are no quotes -- even blind quotes, even blind paraphrased opinions -- from ?top Bush administration officials? backing up the story?s dramatic initial assertion.?

The Times?s negativity about Iraq seems to leak out fairly frequently. A June 29 report depicted the new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, as obscure and unpopular: ?little-known to most Iraqis after spending more than three decades in exile . . . . Many Iraqis have questioned the interim government?s legitimacy.? But four days earlier, the Washington Post reported that a large majority of Iraqis knew very well who Allawi was and backed him with confidence. Citing a survey commissioned by U.S. officials in Iraq and conducted by an independent pollster, the Post said 70 percent of Iraqis were familiar with their new leaders and 73 percent approved of Allawi to head the new government. Allawi had been appearing in the Iraqi media frequently, visiting sites and generating optimism. The poll was not reported in the Los Angeles Times, possibly because the poll was positive about the war and the Times is not. What?s new about the press is that so many people who follow it with a critical eye now have an outlet to howl about inaccuracy and partisanship. The big media used to be able to shrug off critics like this. Now they can?t.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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