St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial page associate editor Mark Yost set off a firestorm on Jim Romesko’s blog after he wrote this column (free reg. req.) about the lack of good news being reported from Iraq. Here’s Yost:
I know the reporting’s bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When’s the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.The most salient criticism of Yost’s column came from Knight Ridder Baghdad bureau chief (and fellow OU J-school grad) Hannah Allam, who wrote:
I invite Mr. Yost to spend a week in our Baghdad bureau, where he can see our Iraqi staff members’ toothbrushes lined up in the bathroom because they have no running water at home. I frequently find them camping out in the office overnight because electricity is still only sporadic in their sweltering neighborhoods, despite what I’m sure are the best-intentioned efforts of people like his Marine buddy working on the electrical grid.I’ve written about this issue also and I think a debate about this is long overdue. I think Yost’s column was clumsy, and his critics have raised some good points — however, that doesn’t mean that he was wrong, and some of the reaction to Yost’s criticism has been incredibly thin-skinned. I’m sure this debate will grow larger within the press community as the Rove story dies down (as it surely must, until Fitzgerald makes a move). In the meantime, Jeff Jarvis is trying to convince Yost to debate his critics.
UPDATE: 10:01 p.m.: I’ve been getting e-mail criticizing me for writing that “Yost’s column was clumsy, and his critics have raised some good points.” I’m sorry, but it was and they have. The word “salient” means “noticeable” or “prominent” — I wasn’t saying I agreed with Allam. You should get a pretty good idea of whose side I’m on from reading this post, which I also linked to above.
I think Yost blundered into a hornets’ nest without making a very good case for his point of view — and because I agree with the broader point he is trying make, I’m interested in what Yost has to say and I’ll be following this debate closely. But when I wrote this post it was too late to call Yost and ask him to elaborate, and I haven’t had time to double-check what his critics are writing about him. I’ll get to it tomorrow. In the meantime, enough with the e-mails.