Web Provides Alternative Sources of War Info

By: Charles Bowen

Iraq has confirmed it. From now on, wars will be waged before our eyes in real time on the television screens of the world. And with hundreds of “embedded reporters” traveling with specific units of the coalition forces, information comes streaming in around the clock to the average citizen at a pace that makes the city desk on election night look like a pool party.

But in a classic irony of the Information Age, the more data we have, the more confusing the situation can become. Is that current story from an intrepid CNN camera crew truly significant or simply “good visuals?” Is the instant analysis from a desk-bound trio in New York actually relevant or just jittery theatrics? In the need to constantly feed a 24-hour news broadcast, how badly are we sacrificing news judgment to serve nonstop war coverage?

Long ago, print journalism found its place in the new order of things by providing a cooler, more deliberate perspective on the events that our readers may have seen for themselves on TV. Now in the Iraqi conflict, online journalism may have found its niche too, by blending the depth of print and the immediacy of broadcast with the global instincts of the Internet.

Emerging now are edgy, independent investigative publications that range from detailed reporting to a kind of war zone tip sheet. Of particular interest to me during the Iraq war has been DEBKAfile, a nearly 3-year-old electronic publication from Jerusalem that boasts of specializing in covering international terrorism, intelligence, war, and security. A new report comes out seven days a week in English and Hebrew (with additional language sites planned.) Edited by Giora Shamis and Diane Shalem, DEBKAfile’s editorial desk is supported by a half dozen full- and part-time correspondents and contributors in world hot spots.

Visit the site at http://www.debka.com, where a busy open page provides the latest headlines and summaries from the war. Scroll the page for the DEBKA Special Report, “Iraq War Diary,” one of the more concise summaries of the day’s events you’ll find.

Also on the front of the site are links to reports from other world trouble spots. For instance, in the left column are links to sections devoted to “Bin Laden Terror,” “Intelligence,” and to data concerning specific geographic regions (Israel, Middle East, Americas, Asia, etc.). The site’s previously published reports also can be searched. In a data-entry box in the upper right side of the introductory screen, enter a word or phrase and click on the adjacent green arrow. A resulting screen summarizes articles that contain your search query with an “In full” link at the bottom of each summary that can be clicked to view the entire story.

Other considerations for using the DEBKAfile in your writing and editing:

1. For more detailed searching, scroll the site’s introductory screen and watch the right-hand column for the “Advanced Search” link listed under “Services.” Click it to reach a screen that provides a more detailed search engine that will access keywords, a data field and targeting of a specific category, such as “Intelligence,” “Bin Laden Terror” or a specific region, such as “Middle East,” “Persian Gulf,” “Russia,” etc.

2. If global issues are of an ongoing interest to you, note the site also offers an e-mail newsletter, DEBKA-Net-Weekly, which costs $120 for 48 issues a year. Usually somewhere on the introductory screen, the site provides a link to the newsletter signup section. Scroll that section also to find a sample issue of the newsletter which you can view before signing up.

3. If you decide to write about DEBKAfile in your news columns, click on the “About Us” link in the right-hand column of the introductory screen for extensive background on the service, including detailed information on its usage statistics online.

You can read the last 20 “Reporter’s Digital How-to” columns on our index page. Subscribers may access previous columns from our archives.

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