Covering New War, in Shadow of Old One

By:  Margaret Sullivan

THE lead-up to the war in Iraq in 2003 was not The Times’s finest hour. Some of the news reporting was flawed, driven by outside agendas and lacking in needed skepticism. Many Op-Ed columns promoted the idea of a war that turned out to be both unfounded and disastrous.

Readers have not forgotten. Even now, more than a decade later, it’s one of the topics I hear most about. In recent weeks, with Iraq in chaos, military intervention there again has been under consideration, and readers are on high alert.

Clearly, the two situations are very different, and made even more so by President Obama’s statement that no ground troops would be involved. Beyond that, where President George W. Bush seemed intent on invading Iraq, President Obama has made his distaste for the war clear. And it’s still early in this crisis.

Nevertheless, given The Times’s troubled history when it comes to this subject, readers have good reason to be wary about what appears in the paper about military intervention in Iraq. And based on what I am already hearing from them, they are.

Many readers have complained to me that The Times is amplifying the voices of hawkish neoconservatives and serving as a megaphone for anonymously sourced administration leaks, while failing to give voice to those who oppose intervention.

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