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Mr. Tim Russert
NBC: Washington Bureau
4001 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, District of Columbia

Dear Mr. Russert:

As I am sure you can imagine, I have never suffered for want of pen pals, Mr. Russert. In a pre-emptive strike against the menacing spectre of boredom, I had decided I would write a letter to someone conducting themselves meritoriously. I naturally thought of you.

But then I read of your recent credulity before the multitasking Bushite PR/mass death machine. I was so comprehensively shocked that I nearly suffered an aneurysm when the New York Times attributed the following to you: "The danger does continue, but nothing, nothing can in any way at this moment get in the way of these dramatic pictures."

Fact and judicious evaluation certainly didn't.

Watching the situation develop, I saw little drama in it. For what seemed like hours, the Iraqis waged an unsuccessful tug of war with the statue, with a breathless Rageh Omaar narrating and doing color for the BBC, "It's going to come down! A moment of extraordinary symbolism. It can't be long now!" It's likely someone at CENTCOM was as bored with the futility of the Iraqi and endeavor and with the futility of Omaar's attempts to conjure banalities appropriate to the event, and vectored an engineering demolition vehicle to the square. The cameras had long been installed in vantage points that would best capture the "dramatic pictures."

I point this out to you not because you were the worst on that day, but because you number among the better longitudinally. My pedantry would be wasted on a Fox News mouth-breather, but I am certain you are salvageable. Surely you realize the absurdity of the explosion of outraged professional vanity over Los Angeles Times cameraman Brian Walski's retouch of a photo, while the coverage of the falling statue -- a picture manipulated by the clever young men from Langley -- is accepted with easy resignation?

The most expensive photo op (when measured in the admittedly base coin that is Iraqi blood) ever staged, which was used to justify the so-called president's high amperage lunacy and which will continue to be so used despite its having been exposed as fraudulent, is, to you, a "dramatic picture."

I'm sorry that outraged professional vanity exhausts itself so quickly and recovers so slowly.

Keith Richburg's outstanding reportage has since shown that much of the convenient mythology your colleagues developed during the war -- the savage treatment of Pfc. Jessica Lynch and her heroic rescue; that Iraqis were spontaneously rising in support of the invading coalition -- is similarly false. Do you or your colleagues even care?

To measure professional journalistic interest in something, I employ the metric of Romenesko column inches. For the uninitiated, when not letting his site serve as an online speakers corner where he allows any and all comers to mount the corpse of Daniel Pearl as if it were a soapbox, Jim Romenesko alerts his readers to items of interest to journalists. If something's not worrying Romenesko, it is likely that his customers are similarly free of worry.

Operating in Basil Fawlty mode, Romenesko is not mentioning Richburg.

Meanwhile, Tommy Franks has embedded himself at the assignment desk, Hill & Knowlton is staffing copy edit, and the media's operational effectiveness has been degraded by 75 per cent. At least your colleagues got to wear nifty BDUs, and you kept yourself occupied with "dramatic pictures."

I hope you can sort this shit out, Mr. Russert. Your recent reports, for all your access and backing, would have been unacceptable to even Swaziland Information & Broadcasting Services. I hope to see you soon return to form, challenging power and voicing heresies while not conspicuously overspending on suits.

Win with a Schwinn,




Grady Olivier is a man of many, many words. His hardcore blogging can be found at Warblogger Watch.