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Searching for Answers

"In fact, I didn't see any Westerners at all until my second day, when I contacted the acting bureau chief for an American paper who was staying in my hotel. As we were discussing the state of reporting in Baghdad and Iraq in general, he told me that I was a little late to the game. These days, more American reporters are leaving Iraq than arriving. In large part, for the U.S. press, 'The party's pretty much over.'"

Still more on the Howell flap and shutting down public comments, from CBS's Vaughn Ververs:

"The back-and-forth, between Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell and her very vocal critics over the past week brings to mind something I heard a woman blogger once say when asked why blogging seemed to be dominated by men. Her response, I'm paraphrasing here, was basically that the atmosphere is not conducive to attracting women. She felt that women were targeted for more cruel and personal attacks (from both genders) than men, something that has kept them from jumping into the fray.

"It's a generalization, of course, to say that the Web or the blogosphere is dominated by men and their voices, and there are certainly examples of women weighing in on the most contentious issues of the day, on both the left and the right. But in light of the remarks aimed at Howell which caused the to close down its comments section, we can at least ask these questions. Is there a gender gap on the Web? Are women subjected to different kinds of personal attacks and criticism than men? Would the Post's Web site have felt the need to close its comments if a male were under attack? Or is this entire premise just a false attempt at describing some kind of non-existent glass ceiling on the Web? Just asking."

American Journalism Review's Rem Rieder rips those on the left who go too far:

"I never thought I'd see anything to match the right's visceral disdain for Bill Clinton, but I was wrong. Spurred by contempt for President Bush and the media's stumbling performance after 9/11 (symbolized by the WMD fiasco), the left has the MSM squarely in its sights.

"That's been clear for a while, and it was vividly underscored by the online hysteria triggered by Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell's column on the Post's investigation of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"The fury and vitriol unleashed against Howell was stunning--and disheartening.

"Much has been made of the Web's great contribution to instant and freewheeling political discourse. But this wasn't discourse, this was target practice.

"Now there's no doubt Howell made a mistake. She said both Republicans and Democrats had received 'Abramoff campaign money.'

"Technically that isn't correct. Abramoff didn't make any personal donations to Democrats. But he did direct his Indian tribe clients to give money to both parties, albeit far more to the Republicans. It's a distinction without a difference.

"Yes, as she acknowledges, Howell should have been more precise. But the point she was trying to make was correct. And she never suggested that this was a bipartisan scandal. Much of the column focused on Abramoff's dealings with Republican icon Tom DeLay.

That didn't stop an incredibly vicious--and uninformed--assault on Howell, calling her everything from a Republican hack to all sorts of obscene things it makes no sense to repeat."

There's now a full-fledged blogger effort urging advertisers to boycott Chris Matthews, backed by Daily Kos, Atrios, Americablog and MyDD:

"Chris Matthews has repeatedly compared Americans who are concerned about the war in Iraq to Osama bin Liden. We are asking companies to refrain from advertising on Matthews' MSNBC TV show 'Hardball' until he publicly apologizes and promises to stop his right-wing bias."

Guess he doesn't win points any more for having once worked for Democrats.

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