April 29, 2007

Distressing Findings for U.S. Rebuilding Efforts in Iraq

New York Times article:

Washington Post article:

Summary: Federal Inspectors assessment of seven of eight recent reconstruction projects financed by the United States in Iraq have fallen into disrepair due to inproper maintenance, raising questions about the claims of rebuilding success made by Bush administration.

The glaring difference in leads between the Times and Post articles immediately caught my attention. The latter goes into great detail about the situation reported on Sunday: "In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle"

In comparison, the Post lead seems almost vague: "Inspections of eight facilities that were rehabilitated or built as part of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq revealed problems with maintenance that suggest some such projects may not function as long or as well as planned, according to a federal oversight agency."

The New York TImes article also waits until much later in the piece to mention the specific agency conducting the inspections, giving priority to exploring the dichotomy the report suggests in claims previously expressed by the United States. The Washington Post mentions the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in its second paragraph.

The coverage of the Washington Post article also seems to lay the blame for the downtrodden conditions at the seven projects at the feet of Iraqi maintenance practices. While the New York Times also notes that hospital workers contributed to the rotting of floors by using too much water to clean them, it takes a more objective view in
assigning responsibility.

Ultimately, the New York Times provides the most comprehensive and balanced coverage of the situation, utilizing clearer and more well-rounded reporting, with better attributions and wider prespectives concerning this topic.

April 9, 2007

U.S. Fails to Prevent North Korean Arms Shipment

New York Times article:

Washingotn Post article:

Summary: Administration officials acknowledged that they allowed a North Korean arms shipment to go through to Ethiopia, three months after pressuring the United Nations to enact strict sanctions on North Korea as a result of its nuclear test.

I thought the Washington Post lead was somewhat unclear and confusing: "The United States did not act to prevent a recent shipment of arms from North Korea to Ethiopia, even though sketchy intelligence indicated the delivery might violate a U.N. Security Council resolution restricting North Korean arms sales, Bush administration officials said yesterday." The words "sketchy intelligence" and "might violate" were vague enough to make me wonder if the news value and importance of the event were sufficient.

On the other hand, the New York Times lead: "Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials." proved to be much less timid and much clearer. The inclusion of seemingly contrasting actions taken by the government helps the lead greatly.

The primary challenge of this article was explaining the reasoning behind administration officials decision to let the shipment through to Ethiopia. While the Post spent time analyzing the breakdown in communication between varying bureaucratic levels, the New York Times focused on detailing Ethiopia's previous reliance on North Korean arms, and how that reliance affected the outcome. The Times also encompassed the view of a key Ethiopian offical, who stated that, 'we know we need to transition to different customers, but we just can’t do that overnight.'

Overall, the depth of coverage and information present in the New York Times article made the article superior to its Washington Post counterpart.

April 1, 2007

Bush Demands Release of British "hostages"

Article from the Washington Post:

Article from the Los Angeles Times:,1,1641034.story?coll=la-middleeast

Summary: In the aftermath of a meeting with the Brazilian President, President Bush called the imprisonment of 15 British sailors as "inexcusable" and demanded the "hostages" be released at Camp David Saturday.

The lead from the Washington Post was concise and covered all the newsworthy aspects of Bush's statements, basically summarizing the president's position and giving a brief overview the sailors' capture alongside Bush's previous silence.

The following paragraphs in the Post article utilized a few telling direct quotes from the president which enhanced the flow of the article and did a good job of fleshing out the reasoning behind the president's position. The attribution also served as a nice segueway into background and context over British and Iranian manuevering over the fate of the sailors the past week.

The AP article lead was very succinct: "President Bush yesterday said Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines was "inexcusable" and called for Iran to "give back the hostages" immediately and unconditionally." I thought the lead was lacked some of the context of the Post article, but it still got the point across clearly and quickly.

Overall, the Post article dealt with the challenges in this issue better by delving into the background to a much greater extent, allowing the reader to attain a fuller grasp of the story while maintaining the impact of the presiden't comments.

March 2, 2007

Japan's Prime Minister Denies Wartime Allegations

This article by the New York Times addresses the recent declaration that Japan's military did not force women into prostitution during World War II made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The statement appears to foreshadow the government's intention to repeal an apology they issued in 1993, and has ignited a storm of debate across the political specturm.

The lead for the Times article was clear and concise: "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied Thursday that Japan’s military had forced foreign women into sexual slavery during World War II, contradicting the Japanese government’s longtime official position." The hourglass structure of the story also seemed appropriate and allowed the author to insert a sense of flow in the article.

I thought the Washington Post lead was somewhat weaker than its Times counterpart: " Japan's prime minister denied Thursday that the country's military forced women into sexual slavery during World War II, casting doubt on a past government apology and jeopardizing a fragile detente with his Asian neighbors." The omission of the word foreign casts doubt on who exactly was forced into sexual slavery. While I thought the addition of Japan's fragile relationship with its neighbors over the issue was newsworthy, "detente" seemed a unnecessary to me. Much like the Times article, the author also uses an hourglass structure to bring continuity into the piece.

Ultimately, I thought the New York Times article provided better coverage for two reasons. First, the Times did an admirable job of fleshing out the history of the debate. While both newspapers included much of the same information, the Washington Post did not explain the background as thoroughly. Secondly, I felt the Times made better use of attribution, primarily because the concluding quote in the Washington Post didn't feel unique or revealing:

'"The Japanese government must not run from its responsibilities," said Lee, who has long campaigned for Japanese compensation. I want them to apologize. To admit that they took me away, when I was a little girl, to be a sex slave. To admit that history." The insertion of the quote didn't do anything for my understanding of the story.

February 5, 2007

Baghdad Blast Kills 130

The New York Times, "At Least 125 Killed in Blast at Baghdad Market," article talks about the massive casualties inflicted by a suicide bomber who detonated a ton of explosives in the middle of a bustling Baghdad market Saturday.

I thought the lead for this story effectively balanced strong verbs and vital information to create a strong opening. I also liked how the author took a broader perspective regarding the political/social impact of the bombing, emphasizing the volatile sectrarian atmosphere between Sunni's and Shiite's. Quotes like, “Maliki and the Americans are the sons of dogs because they do nothing to protect us. also reveal the extent of the anger evident in the Iraqi population towards the U.S., and indicate the extent of the violence likely to continue.

An article by the Washington Post covering the same story used a slightly more concise and hard news lead. Unlike the New York Times coverage, the Post writer chooses to focus exclusively on the details surrounding the market blast, neglecting to underline the spectre of retaliatory attacks.

Although some of the quotes used in the Washington Post article were more unique and revealing, I thought the wider prospective afforded by the New York Times made their article stronger. While the Post writer clearly chose to focus on one aspect, he does not provide important detail lacking in the Times report. Ultimately, the Post article has less content.

January 29, 2007

Deadly Fighting at Najaf

Summary: Backed by American ground troops and helicopters, Iraqi soldiers killed 250 insurgents at the dawn of Ashura, a Shiite holy holiday Sunday. he fighting raged on for nearly 15 hours and two American soliders died when their helicopter went down.

The lead in this article by the New York Times succinctly relays the most important events of the story. The news that, "An american helicopter was shot down and at least 250 people were killed," instantly summarizes the most important information in the article. However, the strength of the lead is compromised somewhat by the usage of passive verbs. The rest of the article catalogues various instances of violence occuring throughout Iraq, instead of focusing coverage solely on the battle at Najaf.

An article by the Washington Post approaches the same event with a completely different tone. Instead of stating that American lives have been lost, the Post article begins with an uplifting note, proclaming, "Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S. helicopters, stormed an encampment of hundreds of insurgents..." By employing strong, descriptive verbs the lead does a better job of being active. The difference in tone between the Washington Post article and New York Times is reinforced repeatedly throughout the article. The New York Times reminds the reader that "throughout Iraq, the daily drumbeat of violence continued." On the contrary, The Washington Post effuses that, "Iraqi security forces maintain primary control of Najaf province."

Overall, I think the Washington Post does a better job detailing the origins of the insurgent group and demonstrates a higher accuracy to their reporting. For example, while the New York Times states that an American helicopter is shot down, the military made no such statement according to the Washington Post.