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Rex Sorgatz

The Grey Album is less great in retrospect

sep 28
2001

Afghanistan

 I wonder if the tradition of journalists being wary of revealing military information is an American phenomena. I'm sure the tradition exists elsewhere, but I'm curious if post-Vietnam America feels is stronger than other countries. I've been intrigued by the events that led up to today's "revelation" that America had troops in Afghanistan. It started this morning when USA Today revealed there were "special mission" troops in Afghanistan, and all the other major news organizations soon piled on. In our newsroom, there was a brief discussion about whether we'd report it, and I was surprised there was even a discussion. I thought it was commonly understood that the media has the duty to report these things, except in the absolute most extreme instances. What makes this scuffle even more interesting is that the British press has been reporting this for weeks -- and the American press has really just ignored it (or, maybe more likely, has been unable to find substantial evidence). To me, it's obvious that both bin Laden and the Taliban would know there are troops in Afghanistan, so the American press has a duty to report our government's hunting of a man for whom they've provided absolutely no evidence of guilt.

 Perhaps New York weeklies will need to redefine themselves? (When I got back from Hong Kong, the New Yorker was waiting for me in the mailbox. If found the black-on-black cover both subtle and stark.)

 The Interactive Afghanistan that I've been working on is now full of data, but it really lacks one thing: personality. Originally, I had hoped that it could somehow humanize the area, but I've really just filled it with impersonal maps and scattered anecdotes. Even the "People" section feels stale. I'm still trying to think of how to fix this -- and wondering how this medium can handle this task.




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