This article — http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2009/03/baghdad-in-frag.php – is a good example of why large, daily newspapers face an almost impossible task. Michael Totten has been doing very good traditional reporting — that is, observing something newsworthy and then writing a story where the reader feels like they are almost hard-wired with the reporter’s eyes and ears and brain, which are simply recording what has happened, good and bad, without much interpretation or reflection. It is immediate, and interesting, and gives the reader a strong sense of what it was really like for the reporter as, in this case, he walked the streets and entered the homes of Baghdad with U.S. troops, smelling the garbage, feeling the fear, tasting the dust in the air. There are still some newspapers that publish this kind of story, but not many. And, those newspapers that do must bear enormous fixed costs to bring the story to the public, whereas Mr. Totten needs only to convince enough readers of his blog to make enough individual contributions to defray his travel and living expenses. Economically, the newspapers just cannot compete.
I like stories like this, where they report the facts that the reporter perceives and really leave it up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about what it all means, as opposed to articles that rely heavily on armchair experts who presume to tell you what it all means. When I read this story, I draw the conclusion that we are making progress in Iraq, but still have a long way to go.