Volume 18 • Issue 5 | JUNE 24- 2, 20

Talking Point

Papers that don’t ignore what’s ‘fit to print’

By Jane Flanagan

This may sound odd, but after months of despair, I’m finally feeling better about the state of the nation. Okay, let me explain. No, there isn’t any better news, there’s still a war on and there’s no sign terrorism is at bay, it’s just that at least now I feel someone is paying attention.

It all started last week when I came up to our country place in Connecticut. The first morning here I went to the general store and picked up the New York Times. For years, whenever I traveled, my major goal was to figure out how to get the New York Times. The Times’ moniker, “the paper of record,” long held true for me. So on this particular morning I brought the newspaper home, made a cup of tea and sat on the deck perusing the front page.

But there was a problem. I couldn’t find any news. War-terrorism news anyway. This has been happening for some time now. But up here I don’t turn on the TV, radio or go to Internet news, so I’m really depending on the New York Times. And this morning I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something.

Turns out I was. Because later in the day I stopped at another general store further north. This place has been around forever. Here, fisherman come and talk about their catch, farmers rate tractors and hunters pull up with dead deer strapped to the top of their trucks. This store carries about eight newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune. I picked it up along with the Hartford Courant and a community weekly, the Lakeville Journal.

The Herald Tribune, which is owned by the New York Times Company, didn’t have much that interested me, but the Hartford Courant and the Lakeville Journal definitely did.

The Courant reported on its front page that Republican Congressional leaders suggested that perhaps Guantanamo Bay should be closed down. Really? Yes, in fact, Republicans were on the Sunday morning talk shows saying so. These Congressional leaders included U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Florida Sen. Mel Martinez expressed similar sentiments a few days prior, but I hadn’t heard about that either. I fished the Times out of that morning’s recycling pile. Not only wasn’t the Republican-Guantanamo story on the front page, it wasn’t anywhere in the paper. I also did some research and found out that the Times did run the Martinez comments the day before, but in a news brief on page 37. I’d missed it.

But the really startling piece on the Courant’s front page was the statements made by senior American military officials in Iraq. It seems these generals now say that there is no military solution to the Iraqi war. “This insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled through military operations,” said Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesperson in Iraq. The only way is through the political process, he said. His comments were echoed by Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. I looked back at the Times. The story was nowhere.

I began to think about the Courant’s readers, some of whom patronize that general store. I haven’t been around here long, but it’s clear to me that I am in New England. People here work hard, keep a low profile and above all possess a Yankee spirit. My husband described it best, “very warm, yet independent.”

And in case anyone assumes that blue New England is solid liberal Democratic territory, it isn’t true. In my town, more people voted for Bush than for Kerry. No, you can’t categorize Yankees. That’s why those stories prominently placed in the New England Hartford Courant struck me. The paper understands the independent nature of its readers and knows it had better not mess with them. It had better give them the news.

Apparently the Lakeville Journal knows this, too. It ran a front-page story on a recent meeting at the Congregational Church. Two hundred residents came out on a Friday evening to listen to Scott Ritter, an ex-Marine and former weapons inspector in Iraq. They sat for two hours listening to him report that there were no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in Iraq.

I couldn’t help but think about the New York Times. I’m beginning to feel that my paper of record is taking me for granted. Next time I travel, I think I’ll save myself the trouble and pick up the local paper.

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