Weekly Roundup 2/21/2011

Reporting While Female
Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times, Feb. 19, 2011

Why We Need Women in War Zones
Kim Barker, The New York Times, Feb. 19, 2011

In compelling accounts, two women journalists with wide experience covering combat and social conflict in countries where unaccompanied females are vulnerable make clear that a recent sexual assault in Egypt on CBS correspondent Lara Logan is unusual only because it became public. Tavernise, rebutting the widely spread notion that Muslim lands are especially dangerous, writes that her own worst experience took place in a country with a Christian culture. Barker strongly argues that Logan’s suffering shouldn’t give editors an excuse to quit assigning women to dangerous places.

The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Illiad and the Trojan War (2010) Caroline Alexander

For those – like this reader and many others - who haven’t had the benefit of a classical education and have tried wading through the Illiad on their own, this book is a must. In clear, direct prose, Alexander guides the uninitiated through the story itself, its basis in real events and its roots in a large body of ancient myths. She doesn’t hesitate to draw parallels between the experiences of fighters in the decade-long Trojan War and combatants in today’s wars, which have been going on for nearly as long. Homer emerges as a chronicler with a clear-eyed vision of war’s toll – not a celebrator of victory.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer


A Watershed Moment for Public Sector Unions
Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times, Feb. 19, 2011

Synopsis: Wisconsin is embroiled in a high-stakes fight between a Republican governor who wants to limit public employee collective bargaining rights and the unions and their Democratic allies who view the governor’s motive as political, not financial. The Times’ labor correspondent notes that public workers in Wisconsin with college degrees earn more than comparable private sector workers, though state wages for workers without college degrees are higher than in the private sector.

Takeaway: “Wisconsin has become,” one expert says, “ground zero for the process of pushing back against unions.”

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The New York Times’ Journalistic Obedience
Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Feb. 21, 2011

Synopsis: The press sometimes keeps mum about information that government sources tell reporters would endanger lives or the national interest. But if the media were to comply with every such request by government officials, would we still have the free press that a healthy democracy demands? In recent weeks, the U.S. press has complied with Obama administration requests to refrain from reporting that Raymond Davis, an American who shot to death two men in Pakistan on Jan. 27, was a CIA employee, not a diplomat, as the administration has said. This weekend, after British media reported the CIA connection, The New York Times finally reported it as well. (The Washington Post reported Tuesday, Feb. 22, that it learned of Davis’ CIA affiliation after his arrest but agreed not to publish that information at the request of senior U.S. intelligence officials, who cited concerns about Davis’ safety if his true employment were disclosed.) Salon columnist Greenwald argues the incident shows that U.S. media are now in the democracy-jeopardizing business of promulgating government lies without considering whether it’s in the public interest to do so.

Takeaway: Greenwald quotes Carne Ross, former British ambassador to the United Nations, who told the BBC: "It's extraordinary that The New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. government."

For more on the question of how media do and should respond to government lying, see the CQ Researcher report on "Lies and Politics" [subscription needed].

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer