Media Blog

Captured by the UN Beat

There’s an expression in newspapers about reporters being “captured by their beat.” That means that the reporter starts identifying more with the organization he covers than with his readers. This is why police reporters start writing in cop-ese (e.g. officers “responded to the scene,” “vehicle” for “car,” &c.) The problem is that reporters who are really impressed that the mayor or the police chief reads their work start caring more about what their sources think of a story than whether the story is useful or interesting to their readers.

Here’s a great example of a New York Times reporter apparently held hostage to his beat.
Speaking to a group of Princeton students, Times UN reporter Warren Hoge makes some interesting claims:

Explaining the differences that he observed between the two most recent U.N. leaders, Hoge said that Ban “just doesn’t have that compelling presence” that former secretary-general Annan has. Also, Hoge said [Ban ki-Moon] needs to identify U.N. reform as an important goal. “I think he’s not paid enough attention to what happens inside his building,” Hoge said. He added that “[Ban’s] going to lose the loyalty and the backing of the people inside the building” if reform concerns are not addressed.

In other words, Ban’s pressing priority should be ingrating himself with the UN’s permanent bureaucracy–the people “inside the building.”

Hoge also addressed the public perception of the United Nations and the relationship between the organization and the Bush administration. “George W. Bush came to office disdaining treaties and international organizations,” he said, and “the U.N. found itself in the middle of a very polarized American political fight.”

Bush disdained treaties and international organizations? Like NAFTA? NATO? WTO? In the mind of the UN bureaucrat and his preferred media mouthpiece, the UN is the only real international organization, and UN-endorsed treaties are the only ones that matter.

When Bush made the controversial recess appointment of John Bolton as the United States’ permanent representative to the United Nations in 2005, members viewed Bolton as a “stick in the eye,” Hoge explained. Of the 33 ambassadors Hoge interviewed for a story on Bolton’s performance, all but one felt he had undermined U.N. reform efforts.
In contrast, the current U.S. permanent representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, “has been much more effective,” Hoge said, suggesting that the switch echoes the changing opinions of Washington and the American people toward the United Nations.

Equating an ambassador’s effectiveness with his ability to be pleasing to other UN ambassadors is a sure sign of UN groupthink. John Bolton was not sent to the UN to make people comfortable; he was sent there as an advocate for the interests of the United States of America–which, as it turns out, very rarely makes people happy at Turtle Bay. The allegedly ineffective Bolton saw through UN resolutions on Iran, Darfur, North Korea, and other American priorities.
Hoge, of course, is well known to be in full sympathy with the worst sort of UN time-server. He once gave an interview with Reuters in which he called the United States a “rogue state” and “pariah nation.”

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