Can the Post maintain its legacy? Meg. Dave. Tom. Arianna. Hsin-hsin
Legacy of the Washington Post As we’ve explored in class, the Washington Post’s investigative journalism during the Watergate scandal spoke truth to power and is regarded as a striking example of proactive journalism. Does the Post continue to live up to this high journalistic standard in times of crisis?
Living up to the Legacy Strengths & Weakness of the Post Case Study: Japan Case Study: Conflict in the Middle East Case Study: America and future Crises Conclusions
Post’s Coverage of Crises Strengths Weaknesses Focus on Washington DC bubble Comprehensive policy coverage Editorials provide factual understanding of events Holding officials accountable Well organized website Supplemental & interactive materials online Effective in national and international news Learning lessons from past crises Innovative sources Focus on Washington DC bubble Subjective opinions in “news” pieces Dramatization Lack of unique information from the ground
Legacy of Katrina Universally Observed Pitfalls Lack of Media critique of public officials (FEMA) and city protection Focus on Destruction Dramatization Abundance of personal pieces, lack of overall, comprehensive coverage Early portrayal of relief / minimal damage
Successful Journalism in Japan “No one should underestimate the potential effects of such a catastrophe - human, political, economic.” Efficiently delivered the core facts Addressed official responses and the nation’s preparedness Captured severity of situation Coverage progressed from focus on incident, to overarching consequences “Scientists said the event has reinforced a growing sense that the field of seismology needs to ditch some of its presumptions.”
Missteps in Japan Lack of in-depth analysis Few examples of excessively U.S. focused coverage Focus on numbers – magnitude, death toll “grim accounting” Articles directly from the post quickly declined Replaced with heavy use of AP articles, “Official says rescuers have pulled a 70-year-old woman from rubble 4 days after Japan tsunami”
CHERNOBYL CRISIS Strengths: Restricted information forced proactive journalism Find and maintain alternative sources Authority questioned Weaknesses: Cold War à Anti-Communist sentiment Numerous unnamed sources à Trustworthy? Today: Less informative and more dramatic.
JAPAN NUCLEAR CRISIS Strengths: Detailed explanation of what happened Persistent coverage Impact on us Weaknesses: Oversaturation, Drama How could this have been prevented?
Case Study #2 Humanitarian Wars & War Coverage
Coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan Bush’s War “A War of Choice or Necessity?” “Second thoughts from Pentagon about year-end deadline to pull American soldiers from Iraq” Obama’s War “Which Is 'The Real War'?” “Will we ever find Osama bin Laden? Don't count on it.” “Forgotten, but not gone”
Bob Woodward on the Iraq War Reactive and proactive “If it’s not working, what do you do? This is the untold history of how the Bush administration wrestled with that question. Compiled from classified documents and interviews with more than 150 participants” “No administration willingly puts its disagreements on display, but what happened in Washington during 2006 went beyond the usual give-and-take of government.”
Obama and Bush: Rhetoric on Libya and Iraq Holding authorities accountable “With skillful use of language and images, President Bush and his aides have kept the American public from turning against the war in Iraq despite the swelling number of U.S. casualties there.” “Bush's opponents say he is building support for the Iraq war -- and himself -- by deceiving the public.” “All these assertions are debatable and highly disputed. But the public appears to have accepted Bush's views.” “President Obama has used his rhetorical and intellectual skills in the past to get himself out of a jam or boost his standing when he needed it most.” “He will try to do that again with his scheduled speech Monday night on the Libyan conflict.” The president and his most senior advisers have struggled to define the mission. They have relied on euphemisms — “time-limited, scope-limited military action” being the most widely quoted — to explain what the conflict is and isn’t, what the U.S. role is and isn’t. The results of their efforts have been mixed at best.”
Libya, Iraq, and Humanitarian Wars Why humanitarian wars can go so wrong “In Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama are already beginning to confront many of the classic dilemmas that bedeviled their predecessors facing massacres and genocide in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda.” “After the United States invaded Iraq, Condoleezza Rice reportedly warned George W. Bush about Darfur: ‘I don’t think you can invade another Muslim country during this administration, even for the best of reasons.’” “If Western strategists saw a more complex interest in furthering the democratic impulses of the Arab revolutions, Libya still may not have seemed of paramount importance compared with, say, Egypt or Tunisia. But what seemingly counted most in Libya was that civilians in Benghazi might, as Obama said last month, ‘suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.’” “Editorials provide factual understanding of events” “Supplemental & interactive materials online”
Editorial Gone Too Far? President Obama’s muddled Libya policy Editorial Board Opinion, March 23, 2011 “The only solution to Libya’s crisis, as Mr. Obama first recognized several weeks ago, is the removal of Mr. Gaddafi from power.” All this would require Mr. Obama to do something he has avoided from the beginning in Libya: Exercise U.S. leadership.
Conflict in Kosovo First War: Early 1998 until 1999 between the army and police of Yugosalvia and the Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA] Second War: March 24, 1999 to June 11, 1999 between ethnic Albanian militants and Yugoslav forces NATO supported ethnic Albanian militants [KLA]
Effective Kosovo Coverage Holding the Government Accountable: “The bombs falling for a third consecutive day over Yugoslavia yesterday are the tangible consequences of what President Clinton on national television Wednesday night called his ‘lessons in Bosnia’. It took nearly four years, and the loss of some 300,000 lives before Clinton led NATO to military intervention in Bosnia in 1995. In Kosovo, the White House has acted on a series of lessons…it must lay the political basis for military action with passes at diplomacy, however remote their chances of success”
Ineffective Kosovo Coverage Ineffective and subjective language: “Rebels With a Crippled Cause” by Peter Finn (April 23, 1999) “New recruits arrive so raw that they can be used only for food detail.” “Nasty, limited and seemingly unwinnable, this is the Kosovo Liberation Army's war one month into NATO's air offensive against the Serb-controlled government of Yugoslavia.” “While the battle for the future of Kosovo is far from over, it is clear that the Kosovo Liberation Army will be central to its final outcome -- just as its leadership always insisted it would be.”
Kosovo and Libya Lessons from the past: “When intervening against Muammar Kaddafi, Western officials take comfort in recalling the 1999 NATO air war against the Serbian occupation of Kosovo, which is viewed as a “successful” humanitarian intervention. It is widely believed that intervention protected the Kosovar people from Serb aggression, and thus alleviated the humanitarian emergency…One hopes that the recent U.S. and European air strikes will have a similarly positive impact on Libya.” -- David N. Gibbs, “Beware the pitfalls of foreign intervention”(March 25, 2011)
Kosovo and the DC bubble “The Senate plans a daylong debate on the issue Monday. At a late afternoon meeting, its Republican leaders decided to seek a vote Tuesday on whether to block funds for the operation unless Congress authorizes it, according to an aide to Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). But the vote will occur under rules requiring 60 votes for approval, which Republicans acknowledged would be difficult to get. They hold 55 of the Senate's 100 seats.” -- “Serb Aggression” by Charles Babington (March 20, 1999)
“Protests Spread against Mubarak” – by Sherine Bayoumi and Leila Fadel(January 26, 2011) “US seeks swift transition in Egypt” – Karen De Young(January 31, 2011) “Delusions of decline” – Michael Gerson(February 11, 2011)
Catching the Budget Crisis Early February 18th: “But Boehner ruled out passing a temporary funding resolution to keep the government operating unless it contained at least some spending cuts, possibly setting up a showdown with Dem leaders in the Senate, who said Boehner had increased the risk of a government shutdown”
D.C. was prepared for the worst April 8, 7:55 PM Why the budget deal happened April 8, 11:02 PM Boehner’s leadership is tested in the budget battle April 8, 11:08 PM Budget Fight Shows Washington Still Broken. April 8, 11:11PM Government Shutdown: What happened when Congress missed its deadline. April 9, 12:36 AM Government Shutdown Averted: Congress agrees to budget deal, stopgap funding. April 9, 2:48 AM Obama set to sign stopgap budget bill Saturday, April 9, 12:29 PM Strengths Timely updates that provides both sides of the argument Historical context, future implications, and current prospects
Print vs Online Readership Highest online readership in DC Comprehensive political coverage caters to this audience Fall 2009 data
Conclusions Learning and adapting from their mistakes Continuing to walk the line within the DC bubble Maintaining a proactive stance, emphasized online, especially with political coverage The international coverage is adapting and improving upon mistakes, but the national policy coverage is the true unique trait of the Post and how the Post in-part lives up to the Watergate legacy
“The Post on its worse days is better than most newspapers on their best days”