"I am embarrassed to call you my colleague"
class=img_thumbleft> Cannibalism among journalists is hardly a new phenomenon. Still, the recent excoriation of Pioneer Press editorial columnist Mark Yost has been something to behold.
To recap: on Tuesday, Yost penned a column which argued that the American public is in the dark about the fabulous progress in Iraq these days for one simple reason: the lying, liberal media refuses to acknowledge it. Yost knows this, he explains, because he has friends in the military who have told him the truth. In Yost's view, this failure of the media to report the real story also explains why the public hates journalists. (Hence the title of the screed: "Why they hate us").
Well, it is certainly a good thing Yost still has a few buddies left in the military because he is fast losing any friends he might have in his chosen profession.
Following its publication, Yost's column sparked a heated thread on Jim Romenesko's media gossip site, with such emminent reporters as Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston taking swats at the hapless Yost.
But the sharpest barbs came from Yost's own colleagues. As Editor and Publisher's Greg Mitchell reports, the Pi Press's Chuck Laszewski put it in the most brutal terms:
"With your column," he declared, "you have spat on the copy of the brave men and women who are doing their best in terrible conditions. More than 20 reporters have died in Iraq from around the world. You have insulted them and demeaned them, and to a much lesser degree, demeaned the reporters everywhere who have been threatened with bodily harm, who have been screamed at, or denied public records, just because they wanted to present the closest approximation to the truth they could. I am embarrassed to call you my colleague."
Meanwhile, Knight Ridder Baghdad bureau chief Hannah Allam--also a former Pi Press reporter--had a few choice words for the Pi Press' leading blowhard:
Mr. Yost's contention that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are stable is pure fantasy. On his visit to Baghdad, he can check that by chatting with our resident British security consultant, who every day receives a province-by-province breakdown of the roadside bombs, ambushes, assassinations and other violence throughout the country.
If Baghdad is too far for Mr. Yost to travel (and I don't blame him, given the treacherous airport road to reach our fortress-like hotel), why not just head to Oklahoma? There, he can meet my former Iraqi translator, Ban Adil, and her young son. They're rebuilding their lives under political asylum after insurgents in Baghdad followed Ban's family home one night and gunned down her 4-year-old daughter, her husband and her elderly mother in law.
Freshly painted schools and a new desalination plant might add up to "mission accomplished" for some people. Too bad Ban's daughter never got to enjoy those fruits of her liberation.
UPDATE:Somehow I managed to miss the full text of Laszewski's letter to Yost, which is posted on Romenesko. It is one of the most blistering journalistic take-downs I've ever read. I wonder whether Yost will muster the will or gall to respond.
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