"Parties to Allow Bloggers to Cover Conventions for First Time" was the headline spread across the top of Page A4 in The Post on Tuesday. The story, by reporter Brian Faler, said Democrats and Republicans plan to give credentials to a select group of bloggers who want to cover the event, though the parties have not yet announced which bloggers will get the passes. The story went on, but it never really answered the question "what's a blogger?" which a number of readers asked.
Blog is short for Web log, and a blogger is someone who creates a personal Web site, or log, for disseminating almost anything -- personal views, news or links to other sites. There are probably millions of bloggers, but there are also many more millions on the other side of the digital divide who are not connected to the bloggers' world and who don't get their information on a screen. Don't take them for granted.
The main feature in the Style section that day was a story by staff writer Ann Gerhart about "Steve Rosenthal, a middle-aged Jewish guy with a big belly who looks like he'd be happy to live in Takoma Park, which he does, and coach his kid's baseball team, which he does." Rosenthal is head of a well-funded political interest group seeking to track down Democratic voters in key states and make sure they get to the polls in November. This was an interesting look at one of the foot soldiers in the battle for the White House.
But a few readers asked why Rosenthal's religion was relevant, and whether that description at the start of the story gave it "a stereotypical frame of reference." More than halfway into this 3,180-word story, Gerhart explains that Rosenthal's passion for his work came from his mother and the Judaic tradition of tikkun olam, which means "repair the world." So his religion does seem to have some relevance to his personality. Yet I also found the prominent, initial description somehow jarring, and I had trouble imagining a reference to a middle-aged Protestant or Catholic guy with a big belly, if that had been the case.
Also on Tuesday, The Post, for the ninth time since April 2003, published three full pages of photos of U.S. military personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq. This is a powerful display. But on Wednesday, the deaths of seven more Marines were reported at the bottom of Page A14 in the 12th paragraph of a story on another subject. Readers notice that, too. On Friday, a story reporting that five U.S. soldiers were killed and 20 wounded when insurgents fired 38 mortar rounds at their position was on Page A16. Many readers say they would like more frequent updates of total casualties.
If you've been following the money in Iraq, you may be a little confused.
On Saturday The Post had a six-paragraph story on Page A9, in the Washington in Brief column, reporting that only $366 million has been spent out of $18.4 billion provided by the administration and Congress for rebuilding Iraq, according to the White House budget office. The next day, July 4, the same information was transformed into a major front-page story from Baghdad by correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran, with important new information that the U.S.-led occupation authorities were using a lot more of Iraqi oil revenue to fund government operations. Two weeks earlier, a front-page story on June 20 by Chandrasekaran reported that $3.7 billion of the $18.6 billion authorized by Congress had been spent, according to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Another story that day from Washington quoted an unnamed administration official as saying "only some $500 million has been spent of the $18.7 billion."
So, somewhere between $366 million and $3.7 billion of $18.4 billion, $18.6 billion or $18.7 billion has been spent. The Post needs to help straighten out this, and its own, accounting.
Even though the July 4 story about the differences in spending American and Iraqi money was very revealing, the paper chose as its lead that Sunday the claim on a Web site by a militant group that it had beheaded a kidnapped U.S. Marine corporal. That story, by correspondent Doug Struck in Baghdad, was carefully worded and pointed out in the first paragraph that "there was no confirmation that he had been killed." Yet the paper highlighted that story. The Marine, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, showed up at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon Thursday.
Also from Iraq, a story on June 29 about the departure of L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator, said "there was no farewell address to the Iraqi people." Several readers said that there was, and that they heard about it on ABC network news. They were right. Bremer made brief taped remarks that were provided to the Iraqi broadcast media. They were broadcast on a U.S.-funded television station and were later picked up by CNN. The Post published a correction Friday.
Finally, on July 5, a holiday and a slow news day, three Post sections -- Metro, Style and Sports -- had photos or reports on the annual hot-dog-eating competition in New York.
Michael Getler can be reached by phone at 202-334-7582 or by e-mail at email@example.com.