by David Kopel
October 21, 2001
Who's got the best coverage of the war? The Post for news, the News for analysis, and if you want the full story, you'll need to reach beyond both of them.
On any given day, the foundation of the News and Post war coverage is stories from the Associated Press and The New York Times. By "war coverage," I'm including only the war overseas; not stories about terrorism within the U.S.
The Post and the News supplement the AP / Times foundation with stories from Cox news service and the Boston Globe. The Post goes further though, with articles from the Washington Post and the Knight-Ridder news service, as well as occasional pieces from the Los Angeles Times, Newsday (Long Island's major daily), Baltimore Sun and Orange County Register. On a typical day, the Post runs about 50 percent more war stories than does the News.
As for content created by Colorado newspapers, the Post has several reporters flitting around Pakistan, Uzbekistan, the Persian Gulf, Israel and Turkey. Some of their stories are human interest /local color, while others involve serious military news. The Post also runs more Oprah-style stories about Colorado families who have members fighting in the war. Both papers have Washington bureaus that contribute articles.
The News hasn't sent anyone overseas, although showcase columnist Mike Littwin has been roaming from New York to Washington to Florida. But even reading both papers will leave you in the dark about important stories. For example, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times (but ignored by the The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News), in 1995, Philippine intelligence caught a bin Laden operative with plans for "Project Bojinka" - hijacking U.S. airliners and then blowing them up or crashing them into the CIA building.
What about longer-term perspective pieces? Here, the News is the clear leader in Colorado. News foreign affairs editor Holger Jensen is by far the most sophisticated Colorado journalist about foreign affairs, with decades of experience covering the subject. Contrast Jensen's erudite columns with the Post's front-page-editorial-disguised-as-news from Monday, Oct. 15. Michael Booth's article insists that "viewed through the prism of money," terrorism and the new war "all boil down to another simple word: oil."
This is nonsense from every angle. First of all, bin Laden and the Taliban make much of their money to finance terrorism from the construction business, from honey sales and from heroin exporting. So the money issue doesn't "all boil down" to oil.
And most of bin Laden's publicly announced grievances have nothing to do with the corrupt Saudi monarchy which sells oil to America.
Well-informed as Jensen is, his perspective is very pro-U.N., pro-"international opinion," anti-Israel, and skeptical about the assertion of American power. This happens to be the dominant perspective of much of American academia, as well as much of the foreign service personnel at the State Department. While it's important to understand this perspective, a reader who wants to be fully informed will want to incorporate additional views.
Thanks to the Internet, you've now got access to daily newspapers all over the world.
Start with the Washington Post; supplement that with the Washington Times, which is especially good at uncovering shenanigans and other secrets from the Department of Defense, State Department and White House. If you want still more, the stars of the British press are your best bet: the (London) Times, the Spectator, the Express, and the Guardian. The Drudge Report ( www.drudgereport.com ) does a good job of culling the most important British stories.
Then, try the English-language press from South Asia. A good starting point is Asia Times ( www.atimes.com ). Indian and Pakistani newspapers also offer valuable perspectives and details which never make it the American press. You can find these papers from the Ecola website ( www.ecola.com ), which offers a superb collection of links to newspapers around the world.
Finally, the best source for military analysis is The Strategy Page ( www.strategypage.com ) run by wargame designer Jim Dunnigan.
My last column contained two errors: First, in criticizing the Post for repeating false claims about errors in the CSAP report cards on public schools, I failed to mention that the Post ran a story correcting one error. One CSAP report did (incorrectly) claim that at a certain school, teachers earned more than administrators. The Post originally named the wrong school, but named the right school the next day. I incorrectly said that there was no such incorrect report.
Discussing Middle East terrorism, I wrote that Britain granted Israel independence in 1948. In fact, Britain merely left when its League of Nations mandate over Palestine expired. The state of Israel was proclaimed by Zionist activists, and quickly recognized by the United States, Soviet Union and other nations.