By: Greg Mitchell
For the past four years there has been no shortage of news and views on Iraq and the long-running war there. What?s been missing: a one-stop-shopping clearinghouse for nonpartisan information, including material coming out of Iraq itself from natives of that country, not from foreign correspondents.
Now that need is being addressed in the form of IraqSlogger, in Beta at www.iraqslogger.com, but due to be officially launched next week. Its director is the former CNN news division chief, Eason Jordan, who quit that post suddenly in 2005 after 23 years with the company. The name of his new venture, he says, was inspired by a Donald Rumsfeld reference to this war being a ?long, hard slog.?
The concept, Jordan tells E&P, ?grew out of the feeling that I think many people shared that there was no one place to go. Individual news organizations do terrific work but you can spend the better part of a day going from one site to another and one TV outlet to another,? searching for a full picture.
?Iraq is the story of our time,? he declares. His goal for the site is for it to become nothing less than ?the world’s premier Iraq-focused information source? — and with no ?political slant.?
His site includes everything from links to op eds and articles in mainstream U.S. papers to ?viral videos? and jokes from Iraq. Jordan points to ?nuggets? missed by the U.S. media, such as Iraqis getting ?addicted? to the TV series ?Lost,? or the latest kidnapping of contractors. Not merely a collection of links, it will focus on what he calls “original reporting from Iraq beyond the traditional.”
One of the site?s unique and most valuable services is a daily roundup of news from Iraqi newspapers that few in the U.S. media have ever bothered to translate. Jordan has Arabic speakers here and in Iraq providing this service, and so far this week, these columns have gotten “far more” traffic than anything else on the site. A staffer in Iraq also monitors blogs there.
When have you ever seen coverage of what?s dominating the front page of the U.S. military?s Camp Victory paper, the Victory Times? IraqSlogger reports today that on the current front page there, ?military doctors are calling on U.S. troops in Iraq to stop smoking.?
Taking a page from Slate, the site will offer a morning roundup of stories in U.S. papers. At the same time, it will present in-depth profiles of little-covered Iraqi cities. Up right now: a look at Hawija. Another item on the site wonders why the Iraq Study Group report said there were 5000 contractors in Iraq when the Pentagon has claimed 100,000. And surely it is the only site featuring the Kirkuk Police Blotter.
IraqSlogger is an ?offshoot,? Jordan says, of Praedict, ?a news and information company that focuses on hot spots around the world.? Jordan is founder and CEO. Praedict intends to launch a series of news and safety-focused sites, with IraqSlogger the first. It will soon be joined by a premium, subscription-only adjunct called IraqSafetyNet, aimed at providing ?intelligence? and ?security? tips to employers (both private and governmental) of people in war zones.
Jordan, who now lives in New York, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Committee to Protect Journalists. He has won various Emmy, Peabody and Headliner awards and directed war coverage for CNN in Somalia, Yugoslavia and Iraq. He exited CNN in the wake of the uproar over his off-the-record comments (which he insisted were misinterpreted) at a Davos meeting concerning U.S. military involvement in the accidental deaths of several journalists in Iraq. He had co-founded the Iraq News Safety Group to help protect media workers there.
Others affiliated with the site include Nir Rosen and Robert Young Pelton.
So what’s an example of Iraqi humor these days? From the site:
–An Iraqi guy has a new girlfriend and wants to know whether she is Sunni or Shia. But he is too shy to ask directly. Finally he asked her, “Where does your family bury your corpses?”
UPDATE: The article above apparently produced a torrent of feedback for Eason Jordan, he revealed in a new posting at his site, including many notes from conservative bloggers. Some urged him to look into the current controversy over reporting by The Associated Press on the burning of six Iraqis late last month and its use as a source a police captain named Jamil Hussein. The U.S. military and some Iraqi officials have challenged his existence; the AP, in two lengthy rebuttals, has stood by its reporting.
Jordan wrote Wednesday night that he has asked his people in Baghdad to try to track down the police captain and he even offered to fly one of the AP critics, Michelle Malkin, to that city to join the search at his own expense.
Malkin, on her own blog, www.michellemalkin.com, accepted that offer today.