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Tuesday, March 28, 2006 

Slouching toward Babylon

The so-called White House minutes that raised a furor in Britain in early February, which I wrote about here at the time, finally is getting serious attention in the US. Yesterday Don van Natta published a detailed report about it in the New York Times, which finally set American journalists on the scent. The chatterers on the cable news programs suddenly began to twitter about the White House minutes. Scott McClellan also got an earful about it at Monday's press briefing, and refused, ever in character, to answer the questions candidly.

Q Is this memo wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you covered us at that time period.


The question has to be asked: Why were journalists slow once again to get the significance of the story? It has been nearly two months since the contents of the WHM were divulged in the U.K. by reputable news organizations. The NYT article is reasonably good, there can no gripes about journalists following up upon it. But it tells us relatively little of consequence that we did not already know from the British reports. The import of the document was always apparent: It destroys the only remotely credible defense against the Downing Street memo, that Blair's cabinet ministers did not actually know what Bush's intentions were regarding Iraq.

It is not as if all American journalists fell down on the job. The Christian Science Moniter, San Diego Union Tribune, and Chicago Sun-Times quickly printed good articles on the British reports; the Associated Press produced a major story. Even USA Today on-line had the sense to connect the new minutes to the DSM (and to the campaign we had to wage last spring to convince them to report about it). The immediate reaction in the American press to the British reports was so encouraging that I concluded no media campaign would be needed this time. But then the story just died on the vine.

It's a shame that journalists have never gotten in the habit, or have forgotten to visit sites like DowningStreetMemo.com, where people who are interested in disseminating real news take the trouble to sort out what is important and why. You'd think it would make their work easier. But then so would reading a few British newspapers, which I manage to find the time to do.

The real absurdity of the situation is underlined by the reaction now to the NYT article. How is this, suddenly, news? Why are so many American journalists evidently unaware that this document was thoroughly vetted and discussed weeks ago? And perhaps they don't remember last spring, when we were writing to journalists urging them to report on the original Downing Street memo, that many in the media insisted that it was already old news only a few weeks after its publication.

Do American journalists really require an invitation from the NYT to take a major story seriously? For nearly two months I have been trying every which way, though so far in vain, to get a hold of the full text of the WHM...recognizing (as we all did) the significance of such a document from inside the White House. So what the heck have the professional journalists been doing? And why haven't they been doing it?

 posted by smintheus  # 8:07 PM  
Comments:
Even the New York Times report was weeks late. There was more hard news in that one memo than in the entire Pentagon papers, so why wait so long? And why didn't they publish the actual memo instead of just quoting parts of it? What do they think we are, too stupid to read? The media these days are such an embarassment.
 
Yup.
 
You can say that again.
 
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