Last month St. Paul Pioneer Press associate editorial page editor Mark Yost set off a firestorm when he wrote a “belated July 4 column” criticizing the performance of his journalistic colleagues on matters related to the war: “Why they hate us.” Read Yost’s column — it runs against the grain of the predominant motifs in the media coverage of the war, but it makes a few points that are borne out in abundance virtually every day on the Internet.
Yost’s column was too much for his thin-skinned colleagues. They reacted like the wicked witch of the west to a little water thrown her way. See, for example, a couple of the items collected here at Poynter Forums (scroll down). Among the Poynter items is this high-minded email from Pioneer Press reporter Chuck Laszewski to Yost: “I am embarrassed to call you my colleague.” Occasional Pioneer Press columnist Craig Westover commented here with some useful background on Laszewski. NRO’s Media Blog took note here.
Now comes Yost’s Pioneer Press colleague and senior news editor John Welsh with his own internal, not-for-publication contribution to the controversy in an email to his news staff on “covering the home front”:
I’m following up on a conversation during this morning’s editors meeting. I feel we could be doing a better job covering the Iraq War on the home front. Like most newspapers, we do a good job of covering the extremes, such as the deaths of Minnesotans in this war. But we often fall short in covering the daily stress and drama that the war produces in our community. I don’t necessarily think we need to have a reporter assigned to this but I think the paper and our readers would benefit if all of us looked for interesting war angles on our beats. Examples: How are schools covering the war in the classroom? Are recruiters more or less welcome these days? Junior ROTC more or less popular? Do families with loved ones abroad have special financial considerations that a biz story could explore? Are returning soldiers finding it difficult going back to office jobs? Are returning soldiers joining local VFW’s? Is the reaction returning soldiers different from those received by Persian Gulf vets?
We’ve done good work. The coverage of the three Minnesota deaths in one day was superb. So was Jeremy’s story on soldiers recovering from brain injuries at the VA. The soldier surprising mom at school made a terrific photo and was a great slice of life. I’m just wondering if there is more we can do.
If you have home front story ideas, discuss them with your editor. If you have broader ideas about how the paper should approach this story, feel free to respond through an ALL NEWS email.