With half of the planet glued to their television sets in an attempt to follow the
war in Iraq, isn't it amazing that all the so-called professional TV news organizations
end up with different stories while covering the same story?
If you channel surf between BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Asia News Network and France's TV5,
you find yourself wondering what's the real story.
All we need now in Phnom Penh is the English-language version of Al-Jazeera to really
spice things up. At the very least, however, thank God for the remote control.
Equally pressing is the question of why, when the Yanks were helping pull down the
statue of Saddam Hussein just near the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on January 9 and
with around 300 journalists watching from the sidelines, CNN HQ decides to turn to
their correspondent in Jordan for an update on the situation.
The answer is simple. CNN, unlike the BBC, does not pay a dime to any voice-only
freelancers. They expect you to do it for the glory of seeing your name on the screen.
So, many reporters prefer to say they are too busy to be put on hold while CNN figures
out a way to get back to you live, or even more bluntly they just hang up.
And then there's the hapless Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf,
which all channels covered uncut and ad nauseam, and who finally decided not to show
up for work. He may have decided to take early retirement, but if he ever re-surfaces
don't be surprised if the poor chap says he "was only following orders".
In the days ahead there's a few stories many viewers want to see on the Iraq saga.
First is the one where US forces rush in medicines, blood plasma and the like to
help all the innocent civilians who were wounded in the bombing on Baghdad.
A second would be seeing Saddam Hussein, assuming he is still alive, watching footage
of what his own people think of him and his 20-plus year reign of terror as it comes
The first would be the right thing to do and wise PR; the second is just a bit of
wishful thinking, the kind of far-fetched story idea journalists come up with to
stay ahead of the pack.
However, veteran PPP correspondent Nate Thayer is lurking somewhere in Iraq and the
idea has no doubt crossed his mind. Readers have to check out www.slate.com to see
if he's on the scent.