Bartle Bull, who reported from Iraq for the New York Times, says his big-media colleagues are on another planet:
In the evenings leading up to the election, I sat on carpets on the floors of a variety of shabby houses in the Baghdad slums. But the daily BBC message I watched with my various Iraqi hosts never budged. The refrain was Iraq’s “atmosphere of intimidation and violence,” and the message was that the elections could never work. What about the “atmosphere of resolve and anticipation” that I felt around me? Or the “atmosphere of patience and restraint” among those whom the terrorists were trying to provoke?
I try to avoid the hotels and the green zone and the Fort Apache press compounds when I am here. Sometimes it seems as though I am on a different planet from my colleagues in big media, and at those moments I worry briefly that I am getting the story wrong. The people at NBC news are not even allowed to go to the restaurant in their hotel. They report from the roof. When I went to the BBC’s Baghdad bunker for some interviews after the election, the reporters I had been watching on television asked me, “So what’s it like out there in the real world?” They meant the Iraqi street …
The failure of “hotel journalism” might be forgivable if it were truly about prudence or even laziness. But there has been something wilful about the bad reporting of this story. It is weirdly personal: Iraq must fail. It is in fact the press that failed, on a scale for which I cannot think of a precedent.
Hit the above link for more. Meanwhile, Saddam’s half-brother has been captured.
UPDATE. The Scotsman’s Katie Grant.