By: Joe Strupp
McClatchy’s in-depth series on wrongful detention and abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other controversial sites has had such strong response this week from U.S. newspapers that the company is making an extra push to sell it overseas, according to Jane Scholz, editor of McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
At the same time, it has gained extremely heavy play here in the U.S., even from non-McClatchy papers.
The five-day series, which launched Sunday and concluded Thursday, reported on the treatment and experiences of some 66 former detainees at the controversial Cuba-based detention center. Reporter Tom Lasseter, a veteran of Iraq war coverage and currently McClatchy’s Moscow bureau chief, joined reporter Matthew Schofield in the eight-month reporting effort.
The series has been available to all 30 McClatchy daily papers, as well as some 1,300 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services clients, Scholz said. Washington Bureau Chief John Walcott said initial reaction indicates most McClatchy newspapers are playing the series up bigger than normal, with many running it on Page One daily.
“The commitment is extensive in many, many places,” says Walcott. “It is the biggest single commitment we have ever made to a single story.”
In addition to McClatchy papers running the series, non-McClatchy outlets that are using it have included: The Houston Chronicle; The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.; St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press; The Seattle Times; The Oregonian of Portland; the Orange County Register; Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal; Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, The Denver Post; and The Commercial-Appeal of Memphis, among others.
Even filmmaker Michael Moore has used it on his Web site, www.michaelmoore.com, Scholz said.
“I can?t recall anything getting this kind of Page One display day after day like this,” said McClatchy Foreign Editor Roy Gutman. “Many of the papers have led the paper with it each day.”
Walcott says the reaction from government officials has been mum since the series began: “No reaction at all from government. I don?t know what they have to say.”
Interestingly, the series ran the same week that McClatchy announced a 10% job cut among its newspapers — some 1,400 positions — but none from the Washington bureau that produced the series. “I think that says that the company’s commitment to public service journalism is untouched,” Walcott said. “We are a smaller bureau than we were a year ago and we will become smaller when [Washington Editor] David Westphal departs and is not replaced.”
Scholz said that dozens of Tribune Media Services sales people and outside agents are involved in seeking to sell the detainee package overseas. She said the fee is based on each news outlet’s circulation and how much of the content they take.
“We usually don?t make a specific effort on a project like this,” Scholz said. “The selling of this will probably run over three or four weeks. Tribune Media Services is calling newspapers and magazines all over the world with excerpts. There is a very active effort to license it outside the country. It is generating a lot more interest outside the United States.”
Westphal is leaving at the end of the summer to take a teaching position at the University of Southern California.