Metros Draft Different Plans For Iraq Coverage

By: Joe Strupp

When it comes to planning for Iraq war coverage, major newspapers are hardly all following the same script. While some large papers, such as Newsday in Melville, N.Y., and The Sun in Baltimore, are (like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) planning to send many reporters overseas, others, such as The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and The Oregonian in Portland, say they probably will rely on wire copy and other news-service dispatches.

“I operate from the assumption that we are a regional newspaper whose expertise is covering local issues and statewide issues,” says Plain Dealer Editor Douglas C. Clifton. “There is a real possibility that you can do your readers a disservice if you send people over who are not seasoned in doing that kind of thing.”

With 24-hour broadcast competition taking many breaking stories away, editors and publishers at major dailies say investing in a full-scale war-coverage approach may not be worthwhile. “We want to use resources wisely,” says Timothy J. Poor, national/foreign news editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which plans to send no more than one reporter and photographer to the Middle East. “We will get a lot of reporting from other sources.” Editors also point out that recent efforts by the Pentagon to restrict press access to military information gives them little hope that much news will be gathered simply by being in the war zone.

For other papers, however, lining up nearly a dozen writers and numerous photographers to get the full story from Iraq is just part of the job, despite cost and space concerns. “I think it will be a completely dominating story for some time,” says Robert Ruby, foreign editor of The Sun and a former Middle East correspondent. “The resources are available, and when there is an event that justifies the coverage, we do it automatically.”

Ruby says all five of The Sun‘s foreign correspondents would cover the war if the United States invades Iraq. He says that an additional four or five U.S.-based reporters from The Sun‘s Baltimore and Washington offices probably would be rotated to Iraq as well. “It’s a chance to give people the experience,” he says, adding that at least two of the five foreign correspondents would receive survival and bioterrorism protection training by the end of the year.

The Dallas Morning News is taking a middle-of-the-road approach. The Belo flagship paper probably would send no more than three or four reporters to the Iraq area, with the directive to deliver stories that go beyond the basic war report.

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