Foreign Policy Blogs

Status of Forces: NY Times v. Washington Post

It's amazing how two newspapers have taken the same remarks from the Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari, and spun them into totally different articles. The articles are mainly focused on Zebari's remarks made at a press conference in Baghdad earlier today. New York Times’ article is titled “Iraq Hints at Delay in US Security Deal” and Washington Post's is “Progress Cited on US-Iraq Pacts: FM says Nations Are Working to Resolve Differences“. The titles convey very different stories. Even the tone in which Foreign Minister Zebari is quoted makes his words sound conciliatory in the Post piece, and a bit more pugnacious in the Times piece.

The Times says that Zebari, “told reporters that some headway had been made, but that negotiators were deadlocked over issues like the extent of Iraqi control over American military operations and the right of American soldiers to detain suspects without the approval of Iraqi authorities.” The Post says, “We have reached a comfortable stage of negotiations, and the differences have been narrowed.” What's interesting is that neither piece mentioned the other statement. Both statements convey a completely different intention.

In regards to the US concession that private contractors’ immunity will be revoked, both newspapers painted Zebari's comments on it differently. The Washington Post quoted Zebari as saying that the US had shown a great deal of flexibility on “thorny issues”, and placed his statement that the US had agreed to lift immunity for contractors after that statement in the paragraph.

However, the New York Times puts his statement on this issue towards the end of the article, with the qualifier that it was the one place that the United States had conceded. “…Mr. Zebari told Iraqi lawmakers in Parliament that the Americans had conceded on one area of contention in the negotiations ‚ the legal status of private security contractors in the country.”

My media watching has lead me to be a bit cynical towards the mode of coverages that different organizations favor, but such an obvious difference in tone of coverage by such prominent newspapers was still a bit surprising to me. Thoughts?