Wednesday, October 04, 2006

NYT: Voice of the State Department

People talk about degrees of state control of media in some Arab countries, but what about trying this kind of analysis in the United States?

Put today's (Wed Oct 4) articles on the Rice mission in the Washington Post and the New York Times down side by side, and maybe you'll see what I mean. The WaPo piece said the eight Arab foreign ministers with whom Rice met in Cairo "rebuffed" her plan to form a united front against Syria and others. They rejected her proposal "bluntly". She came under "friendly but firm pressure" to produce results not just words on Palestine. That is about the way independent Arab media saw it. (One example, from the Iraqi newspaper Azzaman, where the gist of the story is that the Jordanian and the Egyptian foreign ministers both told Ms Rice in no uncertain terms that establishment of a Palestinian state has to be the first priority; and the Egyptian minister explicitly rejects the idea of a new "axis" against Syria and others).

The NYT on the other hand, reports on the trip from another planet entirely. The entire piece is taken up with Ms Rice's often-repeated words of concern and hope for Palestine, and it doesn't even mention the fact that she has been proposing a united front to confront Syria and others, let alone that she was rebuffed. This is exactly the official Saudi-media presentation of the issue. (An example from the Saudi newspaper Al-Jazirah, where the Saudi foreign minister celebrates the solution of the Palestine-Israel issue as something that will have beneficial effects all over the region. In other words, what Rice said for her newspaper, the NYT, is exactly what the Saudi minister is saying for his newspapers).

Let's take it as a reasonable working hypothesis that the NYT, in its foreign coverage, is the voice of the State Department. I think this could help sort some of the daily confusion, because unfortunately a lot of people start the day with the NYT, but not everyone realizes they are in effect reading State Dept press releases, just the same as Saudi readers are taking in the official Saudi version (which in this case seems to be identical).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post

I very much appreciate your blog.
Keep up the good work

6:30 AM  
Blogger badger said...

thanks !

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm adding a late comment here.

Keep in mind that almost all of the regional newspapers across the United States take their lead from the NYTimes. If the NYT prints it, that is the story that at least 100 daily newspapers (all with broad readership) will go with. That is also the lead that their editorials will follow. This means an exponential amplification of the distribution of what the NYT has to say.

Thanks for the clarifying information on the facts. I appreciate your blog.

2:24 AM  

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