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The Rest Of The Story

| March 30, 2006 | 0 Comments

By Cara Jepsen

Maybe there’s a good reason coverage of the war in Iraq sucks.

Most Americans know “World News Tonight” anchor Bob Woodruff and ABC cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously wounded in a January roadside bombing in Iraq. And at press time insurgents were holding freelance American reporter Jill Carroll, who writes for the Christian Science Monitor.

Last October suicide attacks on two Baghdad hotels frequented by foreign reporters killed nine journalists and 17 others. All told, some 112 people working for media organizations have been killed and 29 kidnapped since the United States invaded Iraq three years ago. (Less than 10 percent of the several hundred “embedded” in U.S. or British military units were killed, according to international organization Reporters Without Borders.)

Alarmed by the kidnappings and killings, foreign journalists are relying more and more on Iraqi journalists who are taking the brunt of the attacks. “We are witnessing a catastrophe for journalism as media organizations are forced to pull their people off the streets,” said Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation Of Journalists in a statement on the IFJ Web site. He was referring to the recent deaths of 30-year-old Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat and crew members Rim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal, who were covering the aftermath of the Golden Temple Shiite shrine bombing for Dubai-based satellite TV station al-Arabiya. “It is impossible to have independent coverage when media staff are being gunned down in this brutal conflict.” For more go to www.ifj.org.

Reporters Without Borders has called on the U.S. to release journalists being held in Iraq and Guantanamo. Abdel Amir Yunes Hussein, of CBS News, has been held at the Camp Bucca prison in Iraq since April last year, while Sami Al-Hajj, a cameraman for the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera, has been a prisoner in Guantanamo since 2002, after being arrested in Afghanistan in 2001. Neither has been able to see family or lawyers; for more see www.rsf.org.

Reporters Without Borders also publishes a free, downloadable handbook for bloggers and “cyber-dissidents” that includes tips on ethics, staying anonymous, and bypassing censorship – claiming “Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure.” And even some where it’s a guaranteed right. The worst offender in its “Internet Censorship World Championships” is China. Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan are also cited.

THE REST OF THE STORY, PART II: Marcia Froelke Coburn‘s excellent interview with “This American Life” creator and host Ira Glass in the March issue of Chicago magazine opens with a paragraph that just doesn’t ring true: “Ten years ago, in the first interview of his career, Ira Glass, a producer and on-air reporter for National Public Radio’s idiosyncratic news and features program ‘All Things Considered,’ sat down and told me about the idea he had for a new kind of radio program. It was going to concentrate on everyday life, with fiction or poems sandwiched between strangely ordinary people telling strange stories. Glass wanted to apply novelistic techniques to radio reporting.”

Actually, Glass’ first professional interview dates back to at least November 1993, when I interviewed him in my first Illinois Entertainer “Media” column for a piece on the WBEZ program “The Wild Room,” a then new kind of radio program he co-hosted with NPR producer #Gary Covino#. “I like to think of it as the only show on public radio other than ‘Car Talk’ that both [NPR news analyst] Daniel Schorr and Kurt Cobain could listen to,” Glass told me. “I think it’s appropriate that the show [which aired on Friday evenings] is on a station that most people don’t listen to at a time when most people won’t hear it. And the fact that public radio never puts a new show on the air or takes any off is definitely to our advantage.”

When asked about this, Coburn said Glass and his staff told her she had been the first to interview him. “We did factcheck the story with Ira, so I guess previous stories slipped his mind.”

Lucky for him it wasn’t an IE cover story.

My interview went so well, in fact, I became a guest – Gary’s guest – on the show several times.

ODDS N SODS: Speaking of moving to broadcast, one of our favorite columnists, the Sun-TimesDebra Pickett, now does regular Tuesday commentaries on “Chicago Tonight” (weeknights at 7 on WTTW-Channel 11; repeated at midnight, 1:30 a.m., and 4:30 a.m). Still, the show just ain’t the same without Bob Sirott . . . Speaking of columnists – is it just me or is Steve Dahl‘s biweekly “Vice Advisor” column in the Tribune’s Thursday “At Play” section hitting the nail harder than his radio show? So far he’s covered food, gambling, sports, and “tanorexia” (addiction to the sun) . . . Former “Dahl Show” contributor Phil Rosenthal, who defected to the Chicago Tribune from his post as Sun-Times TV critic last year, finally seems to have found his sea legs. Not unlike how “Late Night” host Conan O’Brian and WBEZ-FM (91.5) morning anchor Lisa Labuz started out clumsy, Rosenthal now can out-glib the best of ’em . . . We’re sad to see irreverent sports talker Bruce Wolf canned from his long-time sports gig at Fox News-owned WLFD-Channel 32’s “Fox Thing In The Morning,” but we know he’ll land on his feet – and soon. Maybe he could join Sirott at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5.

Category: Media, Monthly

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