Friday, April 15, 2005
Sex, guns, slander and other gossip about the NY Times' Iraq bureau that it probably wishes others deemed unfit to print.
For openers, Times reporter Alan Feuer in his new book recalls how he, well, made stuff up in his reports from Iraq, embracing a philosophy that...
...journalistic honesty did not, at all times and in every case, require a strict adherence to the facts ... underneath the epistemic truth of any story lay a different truth, a difficult and human truth, that did not match, or could not always be contained, by the cold arithmetic of fact ...Although a spokeswoman for the post-Jason Blair Times denies that one of its reporters would do any such thing in the paper -- he'd do it in his book instead.
"In the book itself, Feuer acknowledges that he has taken liberties with his reminiscences... We very much believe that is the case."But, of course, back in Iraq there was a larger fight going on...
Like the battle for Baghdad itself, the struggle for control of The New York Times Baghdad bureau began with a plain rout. Less than five months after bureau chief Susan Sachs arrived in October of 2003, she was called back to New York, overthrown in a rebellion led by entrenched Iraq correspondents John Burns and Dexter Filkins.Ah, the backstory to the Times adopting a new policy banning its reporters from carrying guns. A bit of ineffective support for the Baghdad bureau chief.
But last week, The Times concluded that Ms. Sachs, like a car-bombing Sunni, had mounted an insurgent action of her own in defeat.
According to multiple Times sources, the paper fired her for allegedly sending missives to the wives of Mr. Burns and Mr. Filkins, accusing the reporters of marital infidelity on the front lines...
Mr. Filkins is mythologized by colleagues as an admirable swashbuckling loner, willing to take any risk for a story.
They argued about the best way to protect the Times house, with Ms. Sachs favoring a low-key, discreet approach and Mr. Filkins favoring a handgun, which he carried for a time but has since abandoned, the reporter said...
"That caused a lot of tension between the boys and Susan," he said.
At a press conference announcing the capture of Saddam Hussein, one reporter asked Ms. Sachs how The Times would handle the story in the next day’s paper. Another reporter said he watched as Ms. Sachs shrugged her shoulders and sighed, as if to say, "John does what he wants to do."
This, according to two reporters who characterized her leadership in Baghdad, was emblematic of Ms. Sachs’ frustrations. "Here she was, the bureau chief, not really having full control over all the people in her bureau," said one. "That moment says it all. Here was a huge story. She should have had at least a handle on what everybody was doing."
Roger Cohen, then the paper’s foreign editor, was sent over by executive editor Bill Keller to mitigate. Ms. Sachs infamously pulled out a tape recorder at a meeting with the bureau’s staff, effectively sealing her fate. Mr. Cohen was later forced from his post, and Ms. Sachs was called back to New York...
... a long investigation ... traced the letters charging adultery to the sites of Ms. Sachs’ [later] assignments.
Mr. Burns, who is now running The Times’ operation in Baghdad, managed to cultivate a reputation as a connoisseur of high living in his short time in Iraq. A Times star and winner of the 1993 and 1997 Pulitzer Prizes for international reporting, he is known by colleagues politely as the ambitious, virile type.
Given the chatter surrounding Mr. Burns, two reporters said, it was hard to imagine the claims in the e-mails allegedly sent by Ms. Sachs would have been unfamiliar to Mr. Burns’ wife of 25 years, Jane Scott-Long [who] is hardly pining away at home for her husband’s return: She’s in Baghdad, too, managing the compound where the staff lives and works... [all via the NY Observer]