AP Explains Its Iraq Coverage With a New FAQ

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By: E&P Staff

The Associated Press, in an apparent attempt to respond to recent criticism from some of its members that it does not report enough ?positive? news from Iraq, has published a new FAQ on its About AP/What’s New site.

The FAQ includes one direct question related specifically to that criticism, and others related to charges that the media in Iraq are not reporting fully and accurately because of travel restrictions caused by constant violence.

?Western reporters and photographers are very conscious of security worries since the wave of kidnappings and beheadings that began in 2004, and movement has been curtailed,? AP admits.

Last week, it became known that newspaper editors who rely largely on the Associated Press for coverage of Iraq had expressed concern at their regular meeting with AP editors that a “bunker mentality” was preventing reporters in Baghdad from covering positive developments taking place throughout country. AP announced it would now do periodic wrapups of all developments, positive and negative.

Here are some of the questions and answers, as presented by AP today.

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Q: Do the AP — and other media — focus too much on violence, ignoring reconstruction efforts and political developments?

A: The AP focuses extensively on political developments in Iraq, writing daily about both political successes and stalled efforts. The AP also writes frequently about reconstruction efforts — outlining both the progress that has been made in renovating schools (in a story earlier this summer) and lagging efforts to get commercial ports and the oil industry working again.

However, the violence in Iraq is indeed central to the country’s future — and simply can not be ignored.
The AP attempts to accurately and fairly describe the violence and its effect on both the country and its people — and the impact on the U.S. military. A story in early August examined what exactly is killing most American soldiers, finding it is overwhelmingly roadside or car bombs, not mortars or bullets.

Q: Are reporters and photographers sequestered in a hotel, unable to get out and report and see what’s really going on in the country?

A: Western reporters and photographers are very conscious of security worries since the wave of kidnappings and beheadings that began in 2004, and movement has been curtailed. However, AP journalists do travel to the Green Zone in Baghdad , where most of Iraq ‘s political institutions including parliament and the prime minister meet. That is also where the U.S. Embassy is located — and where the U.S. military has a large presence.

AP reporters and photographers also travel with the U.S. military around the country, embedding with units to get a first-hand look at both military action and reconstruction efforts.

When they do that, the AP’s reporters also get an up-close look at Iraqi military units’ operations, and at Iraqi police and security efforts inside many cities.

Q: Is there any first-hand reporting about what the U.S. military is doing?

A: The AP has a reporter and a photographer devoted full time to being embedded with the U.S. military — traveling with different units to watch a wide variety of operations.

Recent stories have included improvements in security in Mosul , U.S. military intelligence efforts that use Iraqi sheiks to help stop violence, U.S. and Iraqi efforts to stop smuggling across the border with Syria , U.S. training missions in Kirkuk, and the state of reconstruction efforts in Basra in the south.

Q: What kind of stories does the AP write?

A: The AP focuses on spot news, trying to write a story each day that sums up what is happening across the country, both in terms of violence and political events and reconstruction. The violence in Iraq affects almost every aspect of the country and cannot be ignored.
The AP also diligently writes pieces that put issues into a larger context — including political analyses, and periodic “summing-up” recent events in the country.
And, the AP tries to write about what life is really like for average Iraqis — one story this summer looked at weddings in Baghdad and how they are conducted despite the violence. Another examined how Baghdad residents sleep on roofs because of the heat and lack of electricity.

The AP also writes stories about ordinary U.S. soldiers — their experiences and stories and their morale. One story earlier this summer was a feature on soldiers relaxing at a pool at a base, on a rare day off. Another examined Marine humor.

Q: Where do AP reporters get their information? Do they rely on just one side?

A: The AP’s reporters reach out each day to a wide variety of officials and other sources — including the U.S. military, the Iraqi national government, Iraqi local officials, officials at private hospitals, eyewitnesses and regular Iraqis.

Often, each side tells a different story — for example, the U.S. military and Iraqi local police often release significantly different casualty counts after some type of violence or incident. The AP attempts to sift through the various, conflicting accounts to get the most-accurate facts.

The AP always includes both sides of the story. It never publishes any allegation against the U.S. military unless it first tries to obtain the military’s side of the story. In 2003, for example, a claim by Iraqis in Fallujah that American soldiers had killed a civilian was investigated for more than a week by AP journalists. No story was ever written after exhaustive interviews uncovered holes in the claimants’ story.

The AP does attempt to also get information from insurgents, or from their sympathizers — for example, the AP sometimes describes insurgent propaganda posted at mosques. This is an important part of the story. It is impossible for Western readers to get a clear and complete idea of events in Iraq without knowing the insurgents’ strategy and morale.

The AP never works with, cooperates with or protects insurgents. The AP does not pay money for material (except for salaries to its own staff), and thus guards carefully against inadvertently providing any financial resources to insurgents.

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