2003 September 16 Tuesday
NY Times Reporter John Burns On Corrupt Reporters In Baghdad

New York Times reporter John Burns was reporting from Baghdad while Saddam Hussein was in power. What he has to say about the other reporters who were there and how those reporters tried to curry favor with Saddam's regime while failing to report on what the regime was doing to the Iraqi people is an extremely damning look at major newspaper and TV reporters.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

Burns believes in the power of the truth and the existence of absolute evil.

Now left with the residue of all of this, I would say there are serious lessons to be learned. Editors of great newspapers, and small newspapers, and editors of great television networks should exact from their correspondents the obligation of telling the truth about these places. It's not impossible to tell the truth. I have a conviction about closed societies, that they're actually much easier to report on than they seem, because the act of closure is itself revealing. Every lie tells you a truth. If you just leave your eyes and ears open, it's extremely revealing.

We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil. I think people just simply didn't recognize it. They rationalized it away.

Read the whole article. It is moving and quite informative.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 September 16 11:54 AM  Media Critique

AMac said at September 17, 2003 9:46 AM:

Yesterday, Ann Garrels (sp?) of NPR News appeared on our local affiliate's talk show to promote her new book on her experiences reporting from Baghdad. Unfortunately, I caught only half of the hour-long interview, but from what I heard, Burns' piece (and Eason Jordan's NYT op-ed mea culpa) might as well never have existed. I hope I'm being overly cynical and owe her an apology based on the 30 minutes I missed and the content of her book.

Thomas P Connor said at August 22, 2004 3:38 AM:

Could you please forward this to John Burns of NY Times

Hello John, Spoke with you briefly in Cap Ferrat in the port after dinner on May 28th with your Italian friend Gabriella from Trieste. I am having a large dinner party at the Grand Hotel in Cap Ferrat October 16th for the 150th birthday of Oscar Wilde. You are welcome if you would like but also I would like to hire you to make a speech on the delusions of average Americans with regard to the world's opinion of them and the danger of media control to Americans sometime during that week of October 10th. My number in France is 011 33 4 9378 0908 and e-mail is above. tcondor6@comcast.net
Thank you very Much,
Thomas P> Connor

irv silver said at September 19, 2005 6:49 AM:

have not seen any article with a john burns byline in some time.is j.burns still with the n.y. times?

Ed Laney said at January 16, 2007 9:25 AM:

Mr Burns,

I listened to your mp3 voice recording re: Sodom Insanes relatives execution.
Judgeing by the tone of your voice and comments, I must assume that you are a sympothiser of the enemy of the United States of America.
I see poetic justice in the head of our enemy to be decapited during his justified execution. Do you not remember the beheadings that played out in the recent months???
Perhaps Americans shold be running up and down the streets of new york handing out candy, and screaming...wooley wooly ally! I only regret that sodom was not decapitated.
And you sir should re evaluate your loyalty to America.
Ed Laney

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