Feb
15
2011

General Hails His Own Success, USA Today Investigation Finds

For a good example of how not to report the Afghan War, check out the lead story in today's USA Today (2/15/11): General: Taliban 'Beaten' by Surge Momentum Shifts in Afghanistan The piece–by Jim Michaels, who has an unfortunate history of this kind of reporting–is mostly sourced to Richard Mills, the Marine general who's in charge of the fight in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Unsurprisingly, he thinks he's doing a bang-up job; Michaels' story begins: Coalition forces in Afghanistan have beaten the insurgency in an important stronghold of Taliban fighters, though pockets of resistance remain, a U.S. commander said Monday in […]

Feb
03
2011

USA Today Shows How Not to Report on Egypt Protests

Start with USA Today's headline (2/3/11): Mubarak Supporters Weigh In: Anti-Government Rallies Shaken by Rival Protesters The forces attacking the pro-democracy demonstrators in Tahrir Square were not "rival protesters"; they were government agents, complete in many cases with police ID cards that were confiscated when violent provocateurs were apprehended by activists (Al Jazeera English, 2/2/11). As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (2/3/11) put it in his firsthand report from the square: The events were sometimes presented by the news media as "clashes" between rival factions, but that's a bit misleading. This was an organized government crackdown, but it relied […]

Aug
27
2010

USA Today Still Rewriting the Iraq War

"Seven Years of War Provides Many Answers" is USA Today's front-page headline (8/27/10) over a story by Jim Michaels and Mimi Hall that attempts to take stock of the Iraq War. But one issue that the paper can't seem to get right seven years later is how the war started. USA Today provides this stunningly deceptive summary: In October 2002, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to authorize force against Iraq. In November, the United Nations Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution offering Saddam "a final opportunity" to comply with disarmament. Three months later, Secretary of State Colin Powell said […]

Aug
06
2010

For USA Today, Good Intentions Excuse Civilian Deaths–Unless You're the Taliban

USA Today had a piece yesterday (8/5/10) about new rules of engagement issued in Afghanistan by Afghan War commander Gen. David Petraeus. The new rules–much like the old rules–"are aimed at limiting civilian casualties," the paper's Jim Michaels reports in its own voice, explaining: At the heart of counterinsurgency doctrine is the principle that winning over the population is the key to defeating insurgents. Civilian casualties can alienate the population. That's the surviving population, presumably. USA Today doesn't quote anyone skeptical of the Pentagon's claim that not killing civilians is a top priority, instead reprinting the official assertion of good […]