April 18, 2006

Media Mischief

Iran's Got Nukes?

(What, me worry?)

Iran's nuke-loving mullahs can take heart in knowing that Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell is calling on America’s newspaper editors to marshal their resources to stop the possibility of military strikes against Tehran’s bomb-making facilities. His comments reveal much about America's mainstream media.

By David Paulin

Iran’s wacky President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raves nonstop about building nukes, destroying Israel, and waiting for the coming of the “Twelfth Imam.” Perhaps he’s playing to the local crowd. Perhaps not. Clearly, Americans and their elected representatives have lots to consider in the face of such batty fanaticism in a post-9/11 world.

How should thoughtful Americans stay informed?

Sorry to say it but forget about reading any balanced reporting in America’s newspapers if Greg Mitchell, the editor of the influential trade magazine Editor & Publisher, gets his way.

Who is Greg Mitchell?

For starters, what Mitchell says is noteworthy: Go to any newspaper and you’re likely to see “E&P” on the desks of top editors. And judging from the popularity of Mitchell’s columns, he carries some clout among those editors.

From his E&P soapbox, Mitchell regularly echoes the themes of the angry left: Bush lied about Iraq; the war is a lost cause; the war on terror is a sham.

Now that Iran looks scarier by the day, Mitchell has taken up another cause: He argues that the press must muster all its resources to stop – yes stop -- air strikes or military action against a “trumped up Iran threat.” No matter that neither Mitchell nor any of the media elite he’s addressing were elected to anything.

“Will Press Put out Fire on Iran?” is the title of Mitchell’s April 13th column. Who else but the press can stop Bush? he asks.

Expanding on his claim that the media has such a decision-making role, Mitchell’s reasoning is revealing. “To those who would say that this inflates the power or even role of the press in America today, I would reply: You don't expect the Democrats to keep us out of war, do you? Just as they would not stand up to the president on Iraq for fear of appearing "weak on terror," they would likely be wary of appearing "weak on the Tehran Bomb."

Spicing up his argument with baseball jargon, Mitchell adds that “the media, usually only a middle-reliever or in a mop-up role on this playing field, might have to pitch with the game on the line.”

Say again? One would think America’s editors ought to be considering how to write balanced stories presenting all sides of the issue - so that Americans can make informed decisions in a post-9/11 world filled with abundant dangers: nukes, terrorism, rogue states, Islamist fanaticism.

Certainly, plenty of facts and issues on Iran must be considered – all revolving around what level of risk and instability Americans, Israel, the Middle East and international community are willing to accept.

But to Mitchell, it’s a closed case. Citing varied reports suggesting that Iran is no big deal, Mitchell says a media-sponsored lobbying effort is needed in order to stop the possibility of military action.

Iran’s mullahs must be pleased at winning over E&P.

“The media dropped its guard in the run-up to the attack on Iraq,” Mitchell argues. “Will they redeem themselves if pressure builds for an air strike or war against Iran?” Answering his own question, Mitchell praises some recent reporting that he claims has cast doubts on the need for military action – reporting, to be sure, that agreed with his own views.

Two themes run through Mitchell’s thinking: First, media elites know what’s best for the public. Second, the public is uninformed and stupid.

Regarding the second point, he writes: “Surely the public would not go for a U.S. attack on Iran, given the Iraq disaster? Think again. A new Los Angeles Times poll - taken before the nuclear news from Tehran this week - found that 48% said they would support military action if Iran continues to produce material that could be used to develop nuclear weapons; only 40% said no. One in four would back use of ground troops.”

In many cases, Mitchell is probably speaking to the converted: senior editors like him who came of age during the trauma of the Vietnam War and 1968 Democratic National Convention. Those were indeed troubled times -- an era when more than a few college kids called cops “pigs” and returning Vietnam vets “baby killers.” That’s when journalists like Woodward and Bernstein were heroes: They inspired a generation of kids to go to journalism school.

Now, many of those journalism grads are in top media positions. Unfortunately, many are still living in the 1960’s. Somebody ought to tell Mitchell and his elitist media pals that the mainstream media long ago used up whatever laurels it had.

Times change, something that’s underscored by the top ten jobs Americans now regard with the greatest respect. According to a recent survey by Salery.com and America Online, soldiers come in No. 2 (after physicians). Police officers were No. 8.

And where were journalists? They didn’t make the list. No wonder the public is skeptical about news coming out of Iraq.

How to explain this reversal of fortunes?

The rise of the Internet and blogs, of course, has much to do with it. Both have had a beneficial and democratizing effect on the flow of information -- helping to expose everything from Jayson Blair to Rathergate and untold other instances of shoddy journalism.

E&P Online Editor David S. Hirschman acknowledges as much in a April 14th column that debates the pros and cons of the rise of bloggers and web sites -- whose rising popularity, he notes, has coincided with the mainstream media’s decline. Its title:
“Creeping Democracy of Web Influences Print Coverage.”

No kidding.

What caught my eye, however, was this zinger: “So what can newspaper editors and publishers do to reclaim their power as arbiters of public taste? So far that's unclear.” David, I see why Greg hired you.

(This was posted on April 23, 2006, at 4:30 a.m. CST. It's nearly identical to my April 18th post except for some light editing and the addition of hyperlinks.)

April 11, 2006

"Soldier with a Pen"
The Christian Science Monitor’s Other Freelancer: Steven Vincent

Steven Vincent, a freelance journalist who brought elegant writing and passionate moral clarity to his magazine articles, was kidnapped and murdered in Basra, Iraq, eight months ago. Like Jill Carroll, Vincent freelanced for several publications - including The Christian Science Monitor. Unlike Carroll and most journalists in Iraq, Vincent broke out of mainstream journalistic formulas and biases that have provided a distorted picture of this war. On the third anniversary of Iraq’s April 7th liberation, Vincent’s legacy is worth remembering as questions about the war’s progress inevitably provoke questions about the fairness of the media’s war reporting.


Austin, Texas - Jill Carroll wasn't the first freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor to be kidnapped in Iraq. Forgotten amid celebrations over Carroll’s release and the subsequent flap among bloggers over her alleged Chomskyesque political views is the legacy of another occasional freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor: Steven Vincent.

Five months before Carroll's abduction, Vincent, a 49-year-old New York art critic-turned war reporter, was kidnapped with his translator, Nour Itais, off a street in the southern port city of Basra. Vincent suffered the same fate as Carroll’s translator, Allan Enwiyah, after he and Nour were driven away: He was shot in the back and killed. Nour was shot and left for dead; but she survived.

A hawk on the war, Vincent left behind an extraordinary body of work in spite of his untimely death. He was at his best when writing for conservative magazines such as National Review, Front Page, American Enterprise, and Commentary.

Sadly, many obituaries about him failed to give a full picture of the California native, who was the first American journalist murdered in Iraq. It’s no wonder; most of the journalists who wrote those obituaries probably didn’t read magazines with the political orientation of National Review.

A Class Act

Vincent was in a class by himself, however. As Iraq’s security deteriorated, most reporters preferred to stay in the safety of the U.S-fortified "Green Zone”; or they traveled about with bodyguards. In contrast, Vincent traveled throughout the country on his own: No bodyguards, no bullet proof vests; just the company of a translator and maybe a driver. It’s something that Carroll did as well by wearing a Muslim head covering to maintain a low profile. But nobody could quite match Vincent’s insights.

Reporting from the Red Zone, he provided a colorful mix of colorful travelogue, gum-shoe reporting, and razor-sharp analysis that presented Iraq in all its pathologies, danger, and promise. His remarkable book, “In The Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq,” is a must read. At the time of his death, he’d been working on another book.

Time will tell if Iraq indeed turns into the "quagmire" that President Bush’s critics have long maintained (and perhaps wished for) as they've repeatedly evoked the memory of Vietnam. Those critics, it’s fair to say, have more than a few kindred spirits among the mainstream press – reporters who too often have covered the war with formulistic reporting that reflects a simple dictum: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Some can’t be blamed. They’re unable to write any other way thanks to the formulas and constraints of newspaper journalism. In some cases, political biases have determined what stories get told and how they’re told.

One of Jill Carroll’s last Monitor pieces was a case in point: It was a “formula” story about how the highway between Baghdad and the international airport was the most dangerous in Iraq. Journalists and editors love stories like that; those which play up conflict…or call attention to the fact that something is the worst… the best…the most popular…the safest…or most dangerous.

And then there are all those “gotcha” stories; the ones that make policymakers or military commanders look bad by focusing on miscalculations or misconduct - whether they're pieces about detainee abuse or civilian casualties. Not that such stories lack merit; they need to be told. But when such news coverage eclipses the good deeds and justness of the U.S.-led war effort, the question of mainstream media bias becomes a worthy one.

Perhaps the biggest purveyor of disinformation is the Associated Press, the wire service from which most Americans get their news about Iraq, both via newspaper articles and television reports that rely heavily on the AP.

For much of the war, the AP and others in the mainstream media have tended to view Iraq through a filter of grisly suicide bombings and by tallying daily casualties -- all written up from news bureaus situated in the safety of the Green Zone.

The Elusive 'Big Picture'

This brings us to Steven Vincent. Few mainstream reporters have done what he did at his best: present the Big Picture. Vincent did this by viewing Iraq through the lives of ordinary Iraqis. He was unashamed about going beyond “objective” and “factual” reporting. He made judgments.

His approach resulted in a moral clarity that was refreshing in comparison to the journalistic nihilism that portrays all sides as morally equivalent. One egregious example of such “balanced” reporting was pointed out by The Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com: A CNN.com story regarding a spate of horrific atrocities in which terrorists sawed off the heads of live hostages. To the CNN.com writer, this posed a vexing – yes vexing -- question: Does beheading civilians qualify as legitimate executions? This is the same CNN, incidentally, that for years turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein’s ghoulish crimes so that it could maintain its Baghdad bureau and have “access” to Iraq.

When pondering such morally confused journalism, imagine this: What if that CNN.com writer had covered the D-Day landings in Normandy – writing an “objective” story describing only “facts”; but without judgments or any sense of moral self-confidence; as if Germany and America were morally equally -- and both therefore deserving of “balanced” coverage in which Germany is not referred to as the "enemy" but by names that are morally neutral. In Iraq, mainstream reporting has at times had that same morally confused feeling.

No such confusion crept into Vincent's work, however. His readers know exactly where he stood when writing about issues in post-Saddam Iraq affecting Iraqis from all walks of life: shopkeepers, policemen; government officials; those who despised the U.S. presence or were ambivalent; those truly infected with the idea of an Iraqi democracy.

Conversely, AP’s reporters know less about the Red Zone than about their accommodations in the Green Zone where they’re largely confined: "the fifth floor of the Palestine Hotel," according to an article in The New York Times, quoting the AP’s managing editor, Mark Silverman. ("Editors Ponder How to Present a Broad Picture of Iraq," NYT, Aug. 15, 2005.) Silverman also admitted that positive news had indeed been buried in articles.

(The AP and other news organizations rely heavily on Iraqi news assistants and journalists who move about the Red Zone; not surprisingly, they're suffering most of the casualties among media workers.)

Heir to Vietnam Reporting Tradition

In one sense, Vincent was a heir to the tradition of some of the best reporting of the Vietnam War, a conflict in which a handful of idealistic and prescient journalists went beyond official sources and news conferences -- Saigon's so-called "Five O'clock Follies" -- and ventured into the field to see the war up close, through the eyes of American soldiers and Vietnamese.

Long before it was fashionable, they wrote of Vietnam's self-defeating and atrocity-producing polices: free-fire zones; the use of "body counts" to measure military success; the apparent lack of popular support for the U.S. cause; the failure to win "heart and minds" in the countryside. Some of the most interesting early reporting in this regard was in magazines like The New Yorker and Ramparts, the defunct New Left magazine.

On two points, however, those idealistic reporters were dead wrong. Despite Walter Cronkite’s influential but totally inaccurate claims -- following 1968’s Tet Offensive -- that the war could not be won, the scholarship in recent years has argued just the opposite. In fact, the war could have been won; and the popular support against the communist was indeed there. But thanks to this country's loss of political will, addled by a hostile press that failed to present all the truths of that conflict, America pulled out. The resulting loss of U.S. prestige fueled leftist insurgencies for years to come. (“The War We Could Have Won,” Stephen J. Morris, NYT Op-Ed.)

Those Vietnam reporters were left-leaning doves. Vincent was a hawk. Although he didn't vote for Bush, he supported the war, believing it was a legitimate part of the war on terror and "Islamofacism." That recognition came as an epiphany when he watched the Sept. 11 attacks from the rooftop of his apartment building in Manhattan's East Village.

Vincent struck me as a man of the left; but not the left that one sees today. In his articles, Vincent skewered "peace activists" visiting Iraq who cared less about the suffering of ordinary Iraqis than about criticizing the U.S.-led invasion -- or "liberation" -- as he preferred to call it.

In his book and in articles for the National Review, Vincent also criticized the mainstream press for failing to recognize signs of progress in Iraq and for utilizing morally confusing language - including terms like "insurgency," "guerrillas" or even "resistance fighters."

Vincent preferred "paramilitaries." He argued that it "evokes images of anonymous right-wing killers terrorizing a populace in the name of a repressive regime -- which is exactly what the fedayeeen and jihadist are doing" by terrorizing Iraqis with kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombings.

Moral Clarity

Writing in the National Review, Vincent expanded on this argument when he framed the fight in Iraq as being similar to the civil rights struggle in the Jim Crow South.

"When gunmen stalk the Iraqi countryside, murdering civilians in the name of 'defending the homeland,' can we not see a modern-day Ku Klux Klan. They, too, were masked; they, too, mounted an 'insurgency'; they, too, sought to reinstate a reactionary regime based on ethnic and religious supremacy," he wrote.

And while many "culturally sensitive" reporters ar reluctant to criticize Arab culture, Vincent zeroed in on what was fueling the insurgency in the Sunni Triangle, whose nihilistic nature has puzzled many journalists: It was a reflection, he wrote in his book, of the all-consuming quest within Arab culture for "honor" and "self-respect."

The fighters "see themselves as tribal warriors engaged in the venerable tradition of honor killings against the biggest tribe of all: America." He faulted the U.S.-led coalition for failing to quickly subdue the Sunni Triangle, which he said allowed tribal groups and the Baath Party to join forces.

And while many reporters focused endlessly on the issue of Iraq's supposedly nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Vincent dealt with a more interesting aspect of that issue: It was a non-issue to most Iraqis.

Vincent's death, on his third reporting trip, came as the mainstream media was just starting to come under increasing criticism for how it has been covering the war – criticism, to be sure, that persists today. It’s not just Bush supporters and hawks who are upset.

In a little-known meeting in July, 2005, some of the nation's newspaper editors, during a regular meeting with top AP news executives, raised questions about news coverage that had failed to take note of a number of positive developments -- such as the fact that 47 countries had reestablished embassies in Iraq and 3,100 schools had been renovated by coalition forces.

Nobody familiar with Vincent's dispatches would have been surprised. Indeed, an editorial in The Tampa Tribune, struggling to make sense of the war, referred to the raging insurgency but also cited a passage from an article Vincent had in The American Enterprise Magazine: "Baghdad is now choked with traffic. Cell phones have spread like wildfire. And satellite TV dishes sprout from even the most humble mud hovels in the countryside."

"This sounds nothing like the Vietnam quagmire that some Bush critics are beginning to describe," stated the editorial in June, 2005. However, it also called on the Bush administration to be more forthcoming about where things stood in Iraq.

Vincent, to be sure, had in the last months of his life grown increasingly uneasy about how the war was going.

“America rid us of one tyrant, only to give us hundreds more in the form of terrorists,” he quoted one man as saying in Umm Qasr, a port city near Kuwait, in an article in National Review.

In his book, he elaborated: "Were we wrong in Iraq? Yes, in one major sense, beyond even the shortage of troops, failure to anticipate the Baathist-led insurrection and Abu Ghraib: we did not, and still don't understand the regressive, parasitical, unreasonable presence of tribal Islam - the black hole in Iraqi and Arab cultures that consumes their best and most positive energies. Because of our blindness, we find ourselves fighting an enemy we do not see, comprehend, or even accurately identify."

He nonetheless argued that much still depended on America's willingness to "stay the course."

Vincent’s murder occurred just three days after he published an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times criticizing the increasing infiltration of the Basran police force by Islamic extremists. Amid Basra’s repressive religious atmosphere, he wrote, most police officers were putting their faith in the mosque – not the state. In his Op-Ed, he blamed British troops who had secured the city.

“Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, they avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society,” wrote Vincent, whose murder remains unsolved.

So much for nation building.

Vincent left behind his wife, Lisa Ramaci Vincent. One neighborhood newspaper in New York had a fitting farewell headline for him: “Soldier with a Pen.”

It was a fitting description: Rest in Peace Steven Vincent. ____________________________________________

Additional information and reading:

*See my story focusing mainly on Steven Vincent's widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, "Honoring Her Husband's Pledge," published at the Big Carnival and in an expanded version at FrontPage Magazine. The Big Carnival post also contains a number of links of interest regarding Steven Vincent

*Steven Vincent’s book: “In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq,” is available from Spence Publishing for $10 - an online special more than one half off the regular retail price.

*The Steven Vincent Foundation: Established by Steven’s widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, the foundation provides financial aid to families of murdered Third World freelance journalists, photographers, translators, and other media workers. Funds also are provided to improve the conditions of women in the Islamic world, an issue that was close to Steven’s heart. As of April, 2006, the foundation had distributed several thousand dollars to people in Iraq, Iran, and Bangladesh. Checks should be made out to “The Steven Vincent Foundation” and mailed to: The Steven Vincent Foundation, 534 East 11th Street, Suite 17-18, New York, NY, 10009. Donations via Paypal (www.paypal.com) should be e-mailed to: stevenvincentfoundation@yahoo.com. Lisa Ramaci-Vincent talks about the foundation in an interview, here.

UPDATE: Steven Vincent was one of two freelance journalists honored in 2006 with the Fifth Annual Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism. Vincent was recognized posthumously for his work reveling the existence of police death squads in Iraq. Vincent’s widow, Lisa Ramaci, will receive the award and a $5,000 prize during ceremonies in London. The Kesher Talk blog has more here and here.

April 6, 2006

The Jill Carroll/Jordan Times Connection: It's Worse Than Her Critics Imagine

The Jordan Times may indeed be an anti-Semitic and anti-American rag. Aren't most papers in the Middle East? But Jill Carroll shouldn’t necessarily be judged harshly for working there. She was doing what most would-be foreign correspondents do these days – using a job at a foreign English-language paper as a springboard into Big Time journalism. Indeed, lots of foreign reporting you read in major papers like The New York Times is not, in fact, always written by veteran staff reporters – it's written by young expat journalists like Carroll, working at foreign English-language papers. Don’t believe me? Read on…

By David Paulin
Austin, Texas -- Jill Carroll may or may not be guilty of the poisonous anti-Americanism that some bloggers accuse her of harboring. Certainly blogger Debbie Schlussel has been raising troubling questions about Carroll.

Like many folks I'm withholding my judgment for the time being. But in respect to one of Schlussel's accusations - that Carroll should be judged harshly for having worked at an "anti-Semitic" and "anti-American" rag like The Jordan Times - I give Carroll a pass for the moment.

The reason, though, is probably worse than anything Schlussel imagines: Carroll’s sojourn to Baghdad, via The Jordan Times, has in fact become an accepted career path in recent years for would-be foreign correspondents: those with no hope of getting a foot in the door at a news service or big-time paper, one that might eventually send them abroad.

And there’s one reason for this: profits. Once upon a time, top U.S. newspapers had lots of foreign news bureaus all over the world; and they didn’t rely on freelancers like Carroll to the extent they do today. Rather, they sent their best reporters to work in them – once those reporters, of course, had proved their mettle at home. Over the past couple of decades, however, most of those overseas bureaus have disappeared - thanks to an ongoing quest to maintain profits amid declining readership and advertising revenues.

The upshot: Papers increasingly rely on freelancers and “contract” reporters; and the way that many people get those jobs is to do what Carroll did: They go abroad and work at an English-language newspaper, get their feet wet, and then start freelancing. In the capitals of most non-English speaking countries, there’s usually one English-language paper. Whether it’s the Mexico City News, Prague Post, Caracas Daily Journal…or The Jordan Times.

Papers such as these attract Brits and Americans with varying levels of journalism skills, all with the hope of leveraging their experience into a big-time reporting gig. That’s the route Carroll took after getting laid off from The Wall Street Journal, where she’d worked as a reporting assistant.

By her own account, Carroll always wanted to be a foreign correspondent. She figured that war in Iraq was inevitable; and wanting to have a piece of that action, she got a job at The Jordan Times, a stepping stone on the way to Baghdad.

Carroll learned a bit of Arabic, did some freelance reporting on the side and, basically, positioned herself for her eventual relocation to Iraq where reporters – including many freelance reporters – would be in demand. And like most freelance foreign correspondents, Carroll presumably hoped her freelancework would eventually lead to a full-time staff position. Nobody, after all, likes the irregular pay and lack of benefits that go hand in hand with freelance journalism.

Perhaps Carroll shared The Jordan Times' toxic political views; perhaps she played along with them or looked the other way (the same as many reporters do at papers all over the world, so long as they feel that their own work is not compromised and retains enough integrity to enable them to live with themselves).

I can identify with Carroll because I took the same career path she did in the mid-1990s: I was in my mid-thirties, with 10-plus years of journalism experience, but my career was in a giant stall. So I headed to Caracas, Venezuela, and landed a job at The Daily Journal, an English-language paper. In the past, the paper had served as a springboard for many young journalists -- mainly young Americans and Brits just a few years out of college; and usually with limited journalism experience but with talent and pluck.

Did I mention my salary at The Daily Journal? Strictly local wages: $330 a month. (Yes, a month.) But once I knew my way around, understood the culture, and spoke enough Spanish to get by, I quickly started freelancing on the side for some major regional papers in the U.S.

Within a few years, my freelance work was generating a decent U.S.-level salary. I moved to one of the best sections of Caracas and contemplated how to make the jump to a big-time staff position in the states. There are lots of reporters in Caracas today just like Carroll: green, ambitions, and freelancing for major papers – all while working for The Daily Journal.

Just for fun, next time you see a Caracas dateline with an unfamiliar byline in the venerable New York Times, Google the name: You might just find that the reporter is not in fact a venerable ‘Timesman’ drawing on years of experience to cover one of Latin America’s hotspot: He’s a Daily Journal reporter who is freelancing on the side for the Gray Lady.

Not long ago, I saw an interesting story in The New York Times out of Prague. Curious about the reporter, I Googled his name. Sure enough, he worked at the Prague Post, a daily newspaper.

Call it Big Media’s bait and switch: The New York Times and a slew of other news outlets (Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Cox News Service, San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, The Washington Times, etc.) all pretend the freelancers they’re using are staff writers. In fact, many of those freelancers probably lack enough job experience, fancy education, contacts, or whatever, to even get a job interview at those elite papers (assuming those papers are even hiring, which they probably aren’t).

Jill Carroll, to be sure, was on the green side herself. She was in the process of proving herself at The Wall Street Journal in her reporting assistant job. Once Carroll was in Iraq, however, papers eager for coverage they could call their own suddenly could care less about having a veteran reporter covering the biggest story since the end of the Cold War.

Jill Carroll’s experience was good enough. In addition to reporting, incidentally, many of the young reporters at English-language papers work as“fixers;” that’s journalistic lingo for news assistant. And despite their limited experience, they can, as fixers, play major roles in shaping stories while in the service of big-time staff reporters. They may decide who to interview for a story, set up interviews, and perhaps they’ll even do the interviews. In a sense, these young reporters are the weakest link in the news gathering process - yet another scam in Big Media that I recently wrote about for Editor & Publisher.

Did I mention how a few major newspapers identified me when I freelanced for them? Writing for the Boston Globe, I was a “Globe Correspondent.” At the San Francisco Chronicle, it was David Paulin/Chronicle Foreign Service. The Dallas Morning News, I should note, was one of the few papers for which I wrote that, at the end of my stories, identified me for what I was: “a freelance journalist based in Caracas.”

Fortunately for Carroll, The Christian Science Monitor hired her one week after she was kidnapped -- an interesting turn of events that was announced a few days ago. However, one has to wonder if Carroll would have been kidnapped in the first place had she been a staff reporter all along -- enjoying the support and protection that’s available to staff reporters but that’s not generally available to freelancers.

As for her murdered translator, Allan Enwiyah, it’s probable he would have died no matter what Carroll’s employment status. After all, Iraqi news assistants, reporters, and translators are doing most of the dying in Iraq, a fact made clear in statistics provided here by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Welcome to Big Media's approach to foreign reporting.