Thursday, September 22, 2005

Good News From Iraq

Courtesy of, and as I was looking at the Outside the Beltway traffic jam, I found this excellent article by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe. He discusses Arthur Chrenkoff, who began a blog months ago about the Good News in Iraq, which the mainstream media failed - or chose not to - cover.

Read the entire article, but here are a couple of choice quotes:
The first installment appeared on May 19, 2004. Headlined ‘‘Good news from Iraq — bet you didn’t know there was any,’’ it offered a respite from the grim litany of insurgent violence, Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, and coalition casualties that the mainstream media’s coverage of the war tends to dwell on. In Iraq, it proclaimed, there was news to cheer: the democratic election of town councils in Dhi Qar province. The publication of 51 million new Ba’ath-free textbooks for Iraqi schoolchildren. The ‘‘brain drain in reverse’’ that was bringing thousands of educated Iraqi expatriates back to their homeland to teach. The revival of Kurdish music, long suppressed under Saddam. The reflooding of the ruined southern marshes. The 3-1 upset soccer victory over Saudi Arabia that meant Iraq was going to the Olympics. And more.
This was new - but why?
Chrenkoff had been thinking about this for a while. On April 3, when his blog was just four days old, he posted an entry about ‘‘what is really happening in Iraq’’ that listed a few of the things that were going well. But he kept it brief. ‘‘I won’t bore you with a litany of good news,’’ he wrote.
But people weren't bored.
Good news about the war, he was to discover, didn’t bore readers. His May 19 entry, which ran to three single-spaced pages when printed, drew a phenomenal response, fueled by favorable mentions in some of the best known and most widely read blogs —,, and’s ‘‘Best of the Web Today.’’ A week later he ventured forth with ‘‘Good news from Iraq, Part 2’’ — this one five pages long — and the response was even more enthusiastic.
The ‘‘good news’’ format was straightforward. It briefly described the latest positive developments and linked to a source providing more complete information. Typically these were published news stories, but they could also be government releases, military reports, industry Web pages, opinion polls, or accounts by Iraqi civilians.
That ‘‘niche’’ — a widespread interest in the things going right in Iraq — was obvious. So why didn’t Big Media fill it?
A possible answer, that rings quite true to many:
‘‘The war on terrorism and the effort to bring democratic reform to the Middle East is the most important enterprise in which America is involved,’’ says James Taranto, the editor of, who early on recognized the importance of Chrenkoff’s work. ‘‘But you don’t get the sense that the mainstream media appreciate this. You get the sense that they’re rooting for America to lose — or at least that they wouldn’t be upset if America lost.’’ By contrast, he suggests, ‘‘American journalists covering World War II basically saw themselves as being on the side of their country’’ — and their patriotism was reflected in their journalism.
In other words, journalists are either too hung up on a misconceived notion that fairness is presenting the contrasting side - always; or they are choosing to only show the side that contrasts with what one what normally expect. A hang-up, if you will, on the notion that the media's responsibility is to try and help place pressure against the government in almost every instance - particularly in the case of war. Though not every way is Vietnam, the media treats it as if it is.

Finally, the Good News reports had to come to an end, but its finality is still quite amazing:
Last week, Chrenkoff posted ‘‘Good news from Iraq, Part 35.’’ It was 44 inspiring pages long — and the last of the series. (He has accepted a position with an employer whose rules won’t permit him to keep blogging.) ‘‘I don’t know what Iraq and Afghanistan will look like in five or 10 years’ time,’’ he wrote in a farewell, ‘‘but I hope for the best. If, despite all the horrendous problems and challenges, both countries manage to make it through and join the international family of normal, decent, and peaceful nations,’’ many people will wonder how they managed to get there. ‘‘But you, who have read these round-ups for the past year and a half, will not be surprised.’’
Thanks to Chrenkoff, no we won't.

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