The Kansas City Star’s coverage of the Iraq war continues as a top concern on readers’ minds. No single topic generates a more consistent string of comments, though there certainly isn’t universal consensus.
Take the Page A-1 story by McClatchy correspondent Nancy Youssef on Nov. 13 about Jurf al-Sakhr, in Iraq’s “Triangle of Death.” Youssef writes that the once-violent town no longer suffers from the violence that once made life a daily struggle — but the government now in place isn’t democratically elected. Instead, it’s a coalition of mostly Sunnis, whose peace has been largely brokered and supported financially by U.S. forces.
“This is nothing but pure apology for the Bush administration’s failure to install democracy in Iraq,” said a caller that morning. “This article should have stressed that their plans are always shifting. It’s anything goes, and you never know if the peace will hold.”
Other readers thought the story was too negative. One questioned the focus on compromises in setting up a workable government. “This story reads like it’s a bad thing, but to me, I see the military changing its tactics when they find out the original plan wouldn’t work. I think that’s making the best out of the situation you’re handed.”
“While I’m happy to see a view from inside,” said another, “I think that the continued news of decreased rocket attacks should have been your main story. That’s the trend.”
Iraq has easily been the most-covered story in The Star over the last five years, mentioned in well over 22,000 stories, some 2,100 on the front page. Judging from the commentary I hear, readers’ interest in the topic remains high.
Last Monday, Dorcas Allen echoed a sentiment I heard many times through the rest of the week.
“On our block this morning, I notice some people with trash set out for pick up, and others are not putting theirs out,” she wrote. “It is much nicer when you keep the public informed in regards to holiday closings. Veterans Day is just as important as any other holiday.”
Like other readers, Mrs. Allen would have liked to see a large box listing the various offices and city services whose schedules were changed for observance of the federal holiday. A brief about Kansas City, Mo., trash collection ran in the Local section on Nov. 8, similar to previous years — but there was not a more comprehensive list.
I understand why editors might not choose to use the space for holidays like Veterans Day where few private businesses close. Ironically, though, those are also the times when people are more likely to wonder whether their services will be interrupted or not. I think that’s a good case for publishing a closings box in 2008.
Blogging the readers
I get lots of interesting calls and letters that I don’t have room to cover here in the paper. But many of those smaller comments and catches are the most illuminating and thought-provoking ideas that I hear.
My new blog, Ad Astrum, is a more immediate and personal way for me to relay your thoughts beyond the newsroom. The style is a little more relaxed, and no concern is too trivial. Point your browsers to http://adastrum.kansascity.com/ and send me a message about what you read in The Star or on KansasCity.com. We’ll keep the conversation going in real time.