I've spoken with many readers this week who say The Star hasn't covered enough about the continuing controversy over who knew what before and after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That's something I've written about here, and I generally agree the print edition hasn't been publishing enough about it.
KansasCity.com has had vastly more, and that's much by design. As I've explained for a long time, most regional print papers these days have long realized they need to devote their resources to covering their local communities. The cable networks and big Internet sources have no "home town," and so they devote almost all their own to the national and international news that everyone is interested in. Readers can and do debate the wisdom of this, but I think the local approach is the only thing that makes sense in today's vastly over-saturated media landscape. But KansasCity.com has run many wire stories about it from the beginning -- too many for me to find them all.
Now, I have to say that while a lot of what I've been hearing has been good and articulated well, much of it has also been way over the top and unnecessarily nasty (par for the course in the final days before any election, I should note). Remember I'm here to communicate the readers' points to the newsroom, but screaming and threatening me don't help, and they don't put a very reasonable face to your point of view.
A good number of the people calling and writing me have insisted the topic has never been in the paper at all -- something that's patently untrue. I'm not going to list all the many mentions, but it has been covered, including a Page A1 story about the Obama administration's shifting narrative that ran on Oct. 20. That story specifically echoed many readers' points about what they want to see covered in more detail. But there's been nothing in print that resembles the full-court press the story has been getting on Fox News.
I was also with the readers contacting me to express their surprise (and of course objections) that there wasn't anything in today's print edition about the CIA's reaction to criticism over its reaction. That story should have been in the print edition as well, in my opinion.
I just got off the phone with an eloquent reader of good humor, who expressed all these thoughts and many more. He he also conceded freely one point that I don't think all critics are being candid enough about:
"Of course I want (The Star) to hammer on it every day, because I am a proud right-wing conservative. We think Obama hasn't been strong enough on defense, and this is something that needs to be out there every day before the election. We want everyone to be reminded that he's falling down on the job."
Does the fact that so many ideological sources are devoting tons of resources to the story mean that it isn't important? Of course not. Partisan sources of all stripes are usually the ones that shine the brightest lights on these types of issues. After all, do you look to a politician's supporters for an even-handed look at his or her performance?
I've also had some interesting conversations with readers who have been a little perplexed at some of their fellow conservatives' fixation on the subject, particularly concerning the descriptions of what caused the attack in the first place. I'd encourage readers to go to the public library and ask a reference librarian for stories that were emerging on the day of and the day after the attack.
It's indisputable from sifting through the hundreds of stories that both terrorism and the much-discussed anti-Islam YouTube video were being cited as reasons by journalists and sources around the globe. There were many contemporaneous quotes from people participating in the riots themselves saying they were reacting to the video. There were claims by terrorist groups that day of responsibility (not unusual, whether they did it or not).
There was this report on Sept. 11 from CNN:
Mohamed al-Zawahiri -- the brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri -- added, "We called for the peaceful protest joined by different Islamic factions including the Islamicc Jihad (and the) Hazem Abu Ismael movement."
"We were surprised to see the big numbers show up, including the soccer Ultra fans," he said. "I just want to say, how would the Americans feel if films insulting leading Christian figures like the pope or historical figures like Abraham Lincoln were produced?"
He added that "the film portrays the prophet in a very ugly manner, alluding to topics like sex, which is not acceptable."
There's a reason historians remind us constantly about the fog of war. And rioters aren't always cognizant of who's encouraging them or claiming motive in their actions. It seems clear to me that there is no black and white in anything as complex as this narrative.
And there is of course a huge caveat hanging over this whole issue -- something many of the readers contacting me acknowledge: Since these are the final days of the election, the politics side of it are an inextricable part of the story.
This emailer puts it eloquently:
"If 'politicized' means that it is a topic for discussion in the political campaign well then certainly one could say it is politicized. However, was not Watergate politicized? You might argue that this is not as significant as Watergate but I would disagree. No one got killed at Watergate, although it was clearly a perversion of the political process and a felony that deserved to be the subject of investigative journalism.
One thing is certain: There won't be any finality that will satisfy Obama's detractors and supporters alike, and it won't happen before Election Day.
But this is definitely the subject that seems to be concerning the right the most in the final run-up to next Tuesday, and the bottom line is that I agree the print edition hasn't had enough about it. I understand why some readers perceive bias there.