Thursday, November 11, 2004

What is The Story?

Examining the coverage of 2 trajedies - the death of Abu Ammar (Arafat) and the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as the county's top law authority - shows the media for what it is. Instead of sharpening independent criticism with the end of the election, the media is not getting the story right.

On Arafat's death, I've already heard things like "considered a terrorist by many" (NPR/CNN) and "what militant group will take power next?" (MSNBC) and "life marked by terror and greed" (NY Daily News). I can't even bear to turn on Fox... In some ways it opens an interesting argument on what is a terrorist and what is a hero, but the tone on this sad day of respect and mourning is just disgusting. Even Bush knew better than not Arafat him a terrorist. T

he most important thing about Arafat's life is that he almost single-handedly brought the Palestinian issue to bear - and that is why he is an enemy to Zionism - no one else. Arafat signed at least 5 peace deals and history knows that Israel violated and killed most of those. Now it's main excuse is gone and maybe history's blessing will finally reward the ravaged people a State.

Then of course, we couple that with the sight of mangled Iraq War veterns today on CNN.

And then on "Deciding What's Salient About Gonzales"

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, November 11, 2004; 10:59 AM
What's the most important thing about White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, who President Bush nominated yesterday to replace Attorney General John D. Ashcroft?

That he would be the first Hispanic attorney general?

That he has been a longtime and deeply loyal friend to the president?

That he championed legal arguments that some critics say laid the groundwork for the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison?

Clearly, all three are important. The first is neat. The second is telling. The third is horrifying, if true. All three are mentioned in pretty much all of today's major media coverage.

But what, as we say in the newspaper business, is the lead?

I parsed the first descriptive phrases of the main news stories about Gonzales by several major media organizations. Here's what they went with:

• Washington Post: Longtime friend.

• New York Times: Longtime political loyalist.

• Los Angeles Times: Loyal friend; aggressive advocate for strengthening Bush's powers as a wartime commander.

• USA Today: Bush confidant, first Hispanic.

• Wall Street Journal: Son of Mexican immigrants; close, longtime adviser to Bush.

• Chicago Tribune: Friend; first Hispanic.

• Knight Ridder: First Hispanic; longtime friend.

• CBS Evening News: Loyal longtime ally; under fire for legal arguments in war on terror.

• NBC Nightly News: Mexican American; friend.

• ABC World News Tonight: Friend; anything but a country-club Republican.

• Associated Press: Helped shape controversial legal strategy in the war on terror; first Hispanic.

• Reuters: Son of migrant workers; Bush confidant; shaper of legal opinions about prisoner treatment.

Is the whole "torture memo" issue just too complicated to get at in the lead of a story, or is it a relative non-issue? We'll have to wait until the confirmation hearings to find out.


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