Thursday, February 08, 2007

Things Anyone Should Do as a White House Reporter

This is a quick and unoriginal post, but too good to pass up. Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post has come out with a list of suggestions for reporters to ask government officials next time they want to start a war (as in now). Among the better ones:

* Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should be make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion -- or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion -- may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.

* Don’t assume that these officials, with their access to secret intelligence, know more than you do.

* Alternately, assume that they do indeed know more than you do – and are trying to keep intelligence that would undermine their arguments secret.

* Watch out for false denials. In the case of Iran, when administration officials say “nobody is talking about invading Iran,” point out that the much more likely scenario is bombing Iran, and that their answer is therefore a dodge.

* Demand to know why the administration won’t open a dialogue with the enemy. Refusing to talk to someone you are threatening to attack should be considered inherently suspect behavior.

And many more good ones.

Later commentators made suggestions including:

For the last four years, I have been completely stunned by the fact that no one in the administration has ever stated the objectives of this war in clear terms (and no one in the media has asked for them).

And, ever, maddeningly important:

Emphasize the policy, not the politics. Journalists are obsessed with politicians and political machinations, rather than the policies that are at issue. They have it exactly backwards.

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