American Pie 16.04.03

Casualties among journalists in Iraq have been higher than anyone expected, but there has been no rush by news organisations to pull their correspondents out. Some, such as the Washington Post, are even beefing up coverage. The Pentagon has even been asked if there is room for more journalists to be embedded with US forces. One reason for the high casualties, says the Pentagon, is that there are at least 1,000 correspondents from almost 200 news organisations covering the war, many more than ever before. Iraq has turned out to be the most dangerous war reporters have ever covered. During the Second World War, the total number of journalists killed was 66, in the Korean War 17, in Vietnam and Cambodia 65, Algeria 64, the Balkans 56 and Afghanistan eight. The Committee to Protect Journalists has even worked out that if the war in Iraq lasted as long as Vietnam and casualties remained at the same level, 4,368 journalists would die. The percentage of journalists killed in Iraq works out 10 times higher than among the military. As Tina Brown commented in The Times: “Journalism is turning out more dangerous than soldiering.”

Reporters who cover the White House are chipping in to buy press spokesman Ari Fleischer a new atlas. At the briefing before President Bush took off to meet Tony Blair, Fleischer mistakenly said the meeting would take place in Dublin. Then, correcting himself, he said: “Sorry, I mean Belfast – the capital of Ireland.” There was an audible gasp – and some laughter. Then, when correspondents’ credentials were handed out, they all said “The Trip of the President to Belfast, Ireland”. Fleischer confessed: “In school I was never very good at geography.”

More geography problems: the Bloomberg News Service was caught sending out stories with the dateline “Baghdad” when they were written in London or Washington. A memo to correspondents warned about “compromising” the service with phoney datelines.

Media columnist Matt Drudge earns quite a packet from his website, which has broken many big stories since it was launched in 1995. According to a business report, the website – which has just one employee apart from Drudge – took in about $800,000 (£510,000) last year. That is almost $2,200 a day – all from media gossip.

The reign of Victoria, the house-and-home decorating magazine launched by Hearst in 1986, is over. At one time, the magazine, brainchild of former Ladies Home Journal editor John Mack Carter, sold a million copies a month. This month’s issue will be its last. “Economic uncertainties” is the explanation.

The University of Texas is paying $5m for 75 boxes of files that Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein accumulated during their 1972 Watergate investigation, but it won’t all go to the two newsmen. Some is being split between several foundations, and at least $500,000 will go to set up journalistic seminars on the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon. The files, including 250 spiral notebooks, office memos and audio cassettes, are expected to be open to the public within a year, apart from documents revealing the identity of Deep Throat, the newsmen’s anonymous tipster. These will remain sealed until Deep Throat dies.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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