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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gaps in Libya Coverage

The American mass media have cut back on foreign correspondents, so their coverage of international affairs is generally much poorer than it once was. (And no, social media are not an adequate substitute.) Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton faults the paper's coverage of the Libya attack:
The Post’s coverage of the Libya attack was good early and good late, but there was an unfortunate gap in the middle — partly but not completely explained by personnel issues — that made it look like The Post was shying away from a full-court press to find out what the Obama administration knew and whether it was giving a true portrayal of the attack.
Reporting on the Libya attack was either buried in the overall protest stories or put on pages deep inside the A section. And it was thin.
One mitigating circumstance helps explain some of the gap: The Post had no North Africa reporter on Sept. 11. [emphasis added] [Michael] Birnbaum was in Cairo filling in while a new correspondent, Abigail Hauslohner, was in Washington getting new-employee training. She could not get a visa to Libya until Sept. 18, and she arrived in Benghazi on Sept. 19. Once on the ground, she did excellent work profiling the militias probably responsible for the attack.
All during this period, CNN, Fox News and other media outlets in Washington were hammering away at whether the Obama administration was being honest about what it knew and whether the murders were a planned terrorist attack. The Post published some of this in its Sept. 13 story but did not develop it further.