August 10th, 2014
12:04 PM ET

Did the media miss the rise of ISIS?

Anne Barnard, the Beirut bureau chief for The New York Times, on the realities of reporting on the ground in the Middle East. Barnard recently returned from Gaza, and has previously reported from Syria and Iraq.

An excerpt:

STELTER: Correct me if I'm wrong, but this feels like a singularly difficult, almost impossible story to be covering. Have you ever covered anything like it?

BARNARD: No, I have to say covering Syria and all of the ripple effects of Syria around the region is by far the most challenging thing I have had to do as a journalist, because you have access problems, both on the side of the Syrian government and in the insurgent-held areas, and you have an incredibly complex array of ripple effects throughout the region. And you just can't be in all these countries at once.

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  2. Iwitte Le Sneuse

    Wow. How far can Brain stick his foot up his mouth? Singularly difficult to cover, almost (italicized) "impossible" story to cover? Oh. My. God. Now, in fairness to the many reporters who would find covering ISIS a piece of cake (like me, hypothetically – I could even drop in with a full "combat load – cameras, microphones, laptops, transmitter dish – static line from a C-130, yelling "Goyatle" all the way down in sheer 1200 foot drop bliss, say hi to the locals in Arabic, and go to work.) Now, singularly difficult, "impossible" for you to cover, maybe, but I doubt even that. I bet that if you tried, you would find convering ISIS easy. Except for one huge constraint: CNN. The rhetorical question would be, what was going on in Syria and Iraq while CNN was giving us 25/8 coverage of the search for a lost jetliner that had zero political content, zero global, zero worldwide significance, at all? 25/8 of the most in-depth (right to the bottom of the ocean) coverage of a type of news that is called, and this is an official terminology, "Sensational". Fortunately, Brain redeemed himself (subconscious self-admission) be saying, "Correct me if I'm wrong..." Well, the first answer would be, "No..." On that, the whole access point, one does not have to be in all those countries to cover the subject. To do an Eyewitless News format, where Chatty Kathy is standing in front of a group of helpless Yasidis ( please, may we, dear Allah, rescue these people, and give them back their homeland) and can't do the same in Syria. Not only are there scads of sources and resources within Syria, there are scads of experts around the world that would be happy to weigh in. Now on that, Anne Barnard is certainly a credible and excellent bureau chief. But she addresses (well the intro introduces) COVERING ON THE GROUND, i.e. sensationalistic footage, and so on. Worse, the (hidden, secret) truth is that CNN and other major news venues do not put resources into lots of stuff. They have narrowed down where they put resources (and conversely participate in a system that instead spends billions of dollars in on-air celebrity and ratings-makers), and THAT as a problem is what Big Cable News (yeah, those broadcast nets, too) does not and will not (i.e. no longer) put the necessary resources in place. Anne's a bureau chief. She knows exactly what I'm talking about. Besides, look at CNN's initial reporting in Gaza. It was aimed at gut-reaction, emotion, and so on, and made the reporter the story (in part). The politics and history were not the first thing (or priority thing) to come out of the self-absorbed reporter's mouth. It may have been good content, but as the place to start? Give me a break. In short, the national news (CNN) simply did a lameass job of analysis (and inside reporting) in the leadup to the ISIS conquests. I'm not even going into the role politics play in even the actual coverage. You guys got caught with your pants down, and that's that. I guess it's time to look up the current state of news bureaus so I can see just how slim our actual news coverage around the world (brings old CNN ad campaigns to mind...) is. "Access" is somebody's (somebodies') fault, not strictly the state of things. Yes, it can be difficult, but I know that there are non-American journalists that have been quite capable of covering ISIS from its inception and beyond. Look in the mirror, CNN, and ask yourself, was it REALLY that difficult to report on the advance of ISIS. Did you REALLY not see their blatantly obvious direction (including geographic)? Reliable Sources? No. Unfortunately, the inept coverage has taken a human toll, so thanks, on behalf of the the Yasidis and ancient Christians, thanks for nothing. You're a little late arriving on the scene with your Action Cams. Reliable Sources? No. Eyewitless News long-term? Yes. Oh, yeah, I worked in the Middle East for a little while (lovely northeast Saudi Arabia, not far from the King Khalid Resort City), have jumped static-line from C-130's, could easily get dropped in, and so on. Nice base for a fictional war correspondent action novel, que no? On that note, the local Bedouins gave me the rundown on Saddam Hussein in minutes back then at the dawn of the '80's, and it wasn't difficult. That we were also friends is not pertinent here, except that it is in the specific point of "access". To answer the question, "Did the media miss the rise of ISIS?" That would be an emphatic Yes. As to their excuses for missing it, well, they're just excuses. Egg on face. Betrayal of journalistic ethics. Ratings. Million dollar fkup that cost human lives. Compromised News Network. Unreliable Sources. As Thomas Dolby once said, "Ratings!" And it's too late for Ron Superpowers to come to the rescue. Unfortunately, CNN cannot call on Captain Hindsight, as he would tell them what their business consists of being paid not to heed the pertinent hindsight. (2:15 CNN vanity promo time) "I'm Iwitte Le Sneuse, and this is CNN." "Good night and good news." (Moore where that one came from.) Off to talk to my Libyan friends down the street on ISIS.

    August 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Reply
    • Iwitte Le Sneuse

      In case someone mistook my plea for the people of Kurdistan, it was genuine, not an example of what a reporter would be saying, i.e. not a parody of an hypothetical reporter. I am saying quite sincerely, please may we rescue these poor victims of the evil of ISIS, and let them live where they always have. The parenthetical could have easily misunderstood, and that misunderstanding would have been a conclusion of a derogatory writing device, not the true prayer it is.

      August 10, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Reply

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