I can't find my way around in the sea of orange on dKos this morning, and anyhow everybody seems distracted with political sniping, so I see little point in trying to offer detailed analysis or commentary until next week. For those who aren't fully caught up, I've created a diary that lists all the media contacts since the start of June. If you missed yesterday's diary, it focused on evidence that President Bush did not (!) do everything possible to avoid war. And Wednesday's diary posed a series of questions that deserve attention from journalists, and for that matter from all the rest of us.
In the next few days, if many newspapers reprint Michael Smith's excellent piece from the LA Times
yesterday, that will help to change the tenor of debate. Smith describes himself as a recovering hawk, shaken from his former support of Blair and Bush by the documents he has reported on. That will give him more credibility in some circles than those who always saw through the war-mongering could hope to be granted. Odd that. Smith made several critical points in his op-ed that reporters in the US inexplicably have downplayed or ignored. First, he stresses that "the UN route" was a charade from the start, and second that the war began in the summer of 2002 even before Congress was consulted. Those are the grounds where the President is most vulnerable, because they demonstrate that the President was not avoiding war.
I was not wildly happy to read this piece by the ombudsman at the Toledo Blade, Jack Lessenberry, reflecting upon our recent campaign to target him with emails. The campaign produced a few hundred emails and he thought that some of them were reasonably well informed. However he also states, "But many more callers knew nothing about us, and complained that we were just cowardly shills for the White House propaganda operation, or worse. "Like the rest of the Main Street Media, you are afraid to offend the government or oppose the war or do any real in-depth reporting," said one."
If that is an accurate description of what his emails were like, it is disturbing. I have urged from the first day that people taking part in this campaign write courteous letters that attempt to persuade the recipients to take the issue as seriously as we do, and which show respect for the professionalism of the journalists whom we're contacting. The fact that the MSM was slow to report on this story does not mean that they are shills or cowards, much less do any individual reporters deserve to be berated just because we'd like their paper to do more. It is beyond my capacity to understand how hyperbolic and shrill letters such as Lessenberry describes could persuade anybody to take this subject seriously. If any loose cannons have been attracted to this letter-writing campaign, I'd ask you to stow yourselves away before you harm the cause you're presumably trying to assist.
I'll admit that it's possible the ombudsman is exaggerating somewhat. He's reluctant to admit that the Blade's lone op-ed on DSM (he also cites a single news report, but that in fact appeared after the campaign) provided far too little coverage. Also, he offers somewhat strained excuses for the absence of more reporting (he goes so far as to imply that DSM might be a forgery--which is doubly and triply peculiar given that the newspaper did not tell its readers that the document is suspect when it printed the article or the op-ed on DSM). But even if this were a case of exaggeration pure and simple, it's obvious that it is not helping to persuade the recipients if our letters put them on the defensive.
I do of course appreciate the great work that many people are doing on this campaign, and the foregoing comments obviously are not directed at them. None of the letters people posted on the Awaken diaries in the first few days of the campaign were even remotely like what the Toledo ombudsman describes. The saying goes that a word to the wise is sufficient, but how many words to the unwise?
Update [2005-6-24 21:53:51 by smintheus]: After posting the diary it occured to me that I should also state that I was a little troubled by Mr. Lessenberry's vagueness about chronology. The article, published on the 20th, refers to emails he received "last week". It also gives the impression that the Blade had published a front-page story on DSM on the 8th, before the email campaign. But the letter-writing campaign to the Blade occured on the 7th. The only thing the Blade had published by that time was an op-ed in mid-May. I also wanted to add explicitly that there is no reasonable doubt about the authenticity of DSM, and if the Blade had poked around a little bit they could have confirmed that quite easily.
Here is the trio of media contacts for today. Please email, call, or fax all three of them, and come back on Monday for the next installment in this campaign:
(A) Detroit News. Contact EITHER Don Nauss, Deputy Managing Editor for News. email: email@example.com
OR Alison Bethel, Washington Bureau Chief. email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone 202-662-7370 fax: 202-662-7385
(B) San Antonio Express News. Contact EITHER Asst. Managing Editor for News Robert Kaiser. email: email@example.com phone: 210- 250-3114
OR Washington Bureau Chief Gary Martin. email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 202-943-9237 fax: 202-333-1184
(C) Reno Gazette-Journal. Contact EITHER Executive Editor Tonia Cunning. email: email@example.com phone: 775-788-6357
OR Washington Correspondent Doug Abrahms. email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 202-906-8124 fax: 202-906-8200
There have been no news stories in any of these papers, it seems. The only real sign of interest in any of the papers was a single, brief editorial in the Detroit News calling for a public investigation of the allegations. All three Washington Correspondents are likely to produce serious reports on DSM if they choose to cover it. Alison Bethel generally is willing to delve into real detail in her reports. Gary Martin is openly and frankly skeptical of the President's credibility in general. Doug Abrahms is primarily interested in issues like energy policy; however he sometimes does politics as well and, having a good understanding of history, he's likely to bring some necessary perspective to the entire range of issues.
Those who'd like advice about how to frame an effective appeal to journalists to investigate the DSM story may consult Wednesday's diary:
Please note that I am urging all of you to contact Sen. Pat Roberts EVERY day to urge him to re-open the stalled Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation of the manipulation of intelligence about WMD. The contact info is posted at Wednesday's diary (linked above). This aspect of our campaign is critical.
There are quite a few editorials coming out on DSM, and most of them are well worth reading. Here is part of a column by Robert Steinback of the Miami Herald (which the campaign targeted recently), "Americans inching closer to a reckoning" (6/23). The link is to the Fort Wayne paper, which carried it also:
(KRT) - Do you want to know? That's the only popular division that matters in the United States today: Those who want to determine once and for all if President Bush knowingly ``fixed the facts'' regarding Iraq, thereby misleading Congress and the American people into supporting an unnecessary war, and those who will cover their ears and hum loudly in order to maintain their belief that Bush and his advisors remain above reproach. You're in one camp or the other. Either you want to know if you've been lied to, or you don't. The American public is inching tentatively toward a reckoning unlike any this nation has ever experienced.
Another paper we targeted was the Arizona Daily Star, "Memos chip away at administration war motives," (6/23). It is both detailed and up to date.