The MSM Roast of Mark Yost

July 17, 2005  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial page associate editor Mark Yost penned a provocative column on media coverage of the Iraq war, noting his contacts there told him, with apologies to Johnny Mercer, the MSM are accentuating the negative and ignoring the positive. He couldn't have imagined he was covering himself with blood and throwing himself into the shark pen. His media colleagues were merciless. "With your column, you have spat on the copy of the brave men and women who are doing their best in terrible conditions," a reporter at the same Knight-Ridder newspaper charged in an open letter. "You have insulted them and demeaned them," he wrote. "I am embarrassed to call you my colleague."

The D.C. Bureau chief for Knight-Ridder, Clark Hoyt, spent a column ripping off a chunk of Yost and chewing it. Hoyt said Yost "asks why you don't read about progress being made in the power grid [but] maybe it's because there is no progress." At the Romenesko open blog for journalists, this charge from Hoyt was repeated time and again: "It's astonishing that Mark Yost, from the distance and safety of St. Paul, Minnesota, presumes to know what's going on in Iraq." It's an interesting double standard for columnists that you can rip U.S. war efforts all you want from the comfort of a U.S. office (since Hoyt didn't mention going, we know he didn't), but if you're going to write something positive you had better have spent time in Iraq, notwithstanding that so often for reporters "time in Iraq" means a hotel behind layers of concrete barriers and concertina wire.

OF COURSE the war coverage is slanted: Why should the adage "If it bleeds it leads" stop at the Iraqi border? But as it happens, I did go to Iraq and somehow didn't feel the wetness of Yost's spit. I stayed in no hotels, got out of the safety of the Green Zone as soon as I had my press credentials, and went to the hostile Anbar province. I walked the streets, rode in the Humvees, and had my trip cut short by a colostomy that saved my life. But I was there long enough to see and report that Yost was right. If Hoyt thinks no progress is being made, he's either flat-out lying or wearing those blinders the MSM are so famous for. In any case, it's astonishing that Clark Hoyt, from the distance and safety of Washington, D.C., presumes to know what's going on in Iraq.