Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Medias Touch

Wow. The AP actually ran some (mostly) positive news from Iraq last night, and my newspaper actually ran it this morning.

Officials: Rebuilding of Iraq Progresses

Tue May 25, 4:42 PM ET

By ANWAR FARUQI, Associated Press Writer

DOHA, Qatar - Oil production and electricity supplies are up in Iraq there are more telephone lines and schools have been renovated, but Iraqi reconstruction is still hobbled by a lack of security, officials said Tuesday at a conference of international donors.

While the usual litany of problems is cited, which is fair, the article does not stint in reporting the good news.

[Iraqi Planning Minister Mehdi] Hafedh said that despite problems with security, there were a number of achievements. Power generation has surpassed levels before last year's U.S.-led invasion, as have oil exports, now averaging 1.5 million barrels a day, he said. According to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, the average peak electricity production in the first seven days of May was 3,376 megawatts.

... Hafedh said 2,500 schools have been renovated, telephone lines had increased 20 percent, and some 1,500 hospitals and clinics were operational. He said that Iraqi students would get $40 million worth of new textbooks in the coming academic year after the first grant agreement was signed two weeks ago with the World Bank to release donor funds.

Ross Mountain, the resident U.N. coordinator on Iraq, appealed to donors to look beyond headlines about violence to see what has been achieved. "Amid the daily media diet of bombs and slaughter, we here need to recognize that there are significant positive developments being accomplished by Iraqis, including with their international partners," Mountain said. Col. Robert S. Ferrell, of the U.S.-led coalition's program management office, said 73 development projects are under way, and many more would start in June. He said $2.3 billion worth of construction was taking place in the electricity and oil sectors.

And so forth. So am I ready to eat my words about biased media? Not quite. For one, yes, we ran the story, but we buried it deep, on page A4, below the fold. And for some mind-boggling reason, we illustrated this story with this photo:

which carries the caption: U.S. Army soldiers rush to evacuate an injured comrade in the center of Baghdad, Iraq after thunderous explosions at the capital, Tuesday.

Really, could this be more clear? Why not run a story saying "meat protein is good for you" and illustrate it with a picture of a man choking to death on a hot dog.

Still, I suppose even that would be more fairandbalanced than the work of l'Agence France-Presse. Here's the lede to their version of the same story:

DOHA (AFP) - Iraq issued a cry for urgent help from donor countries as aid only trickles through and violence rages ahead of the US-led coalition's June 30 deadline for the handover of power.

Good Lord, are they really talking about the same meeting? You have to wade through 11 paragraphs of horror stories (none of them fresh) and bland background to get to the good news.

But the minister also listed achievements such as opening 2,400 schools, 240 hospitals, 1,200 clinics and one million telephone lines -- 20 percent more than under the ousted Baathist regime.

UN special representative for Iraq Ross Mountain noted progress in the field -- several hundred schools rehabilitated, five million children vaccinated against measles in March and April, 11,000 Iraqi refugees helped to return home from Iran and Saudi Arabia, nine million litres of water tankered to Baghdad, Basra and Fallujah daily at peak, 40,000 people employed mainly in water and sanitation schemes.

And then it's back to the gloom and doom.