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Volume 68, Issue 1, Date


Staff Editorial


Matthew Dulin        Ray Hafner       Geronimo Rodriguez
         Shaun Salnave          Cara Sarelli

News source?

U.N. weapons inspectors said some things Sunday that provide an interesting test for those who might be tired of the old glass half-empty or half-full.

The inspectors' statements were actually fairly mixed, but the coverage wasn't. It's easy enough to see this by focusing on two of the biggest U.S. papers, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Covering the same event, the two papers managed to get completely different takes on things: "Inspectors See 'Change of Heart'; U.S. Says Progress Is Not Enough" reads the Times' headline; the Post chose "U.N., Iraq Fail to Agree on Key Inspection Issues." It's pretty difficult to tell, given those two headlines, that both papers are essentially describing the same set of statements from Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei.

Now let's compare the first paragraph of each story: The Post's reads: "The top U.N. arms experts said tonight that they were unable to reach agreement with Saddam Hussein's government on several key weapons issues they had traveled here to resolve in a bid to build support for continuing inspections." Pretty pessimistic, isn't it?

Not so in the Times: "Weapons inspectors said today that they had seen 'the beginning of a change of heart on the part of Iraq' on cooperating with the United Nations, but Bush administration officials dismissed the gestures as deceptions and said the Iraqis were desperately playing for time."

The Post's article continues in the same depressing vein: the inspectors "failed to come away with the top three items on their wish list," and Bush has stated "it's over." Not until its ninth paragraph does the Post's article mention the quote from ElBaradei with which the Times began.

The Times article has its problems, too: U.N. inspectors' statements were every bit as much "a mixed bag" as the issue of interviews with Iraqi scientists, but the Times only seems to quote statements favorable to Iraq. The closest it gets to negative is ElBaradei's quote that "We have seen progress, but we need quick progress."

If you believed the Post, you'd end up with the impression that U.N. inspectors had all but given up hope, and that war would be coming any day now. The Times might give you the same impression about the war, but you'd believe it was going to happen because of the Bush administration's inability to accept that the United Nations' dealings with Iraq were finally going well.

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