Since the inception of NYT Front|Back, MediaBloodhound has captured a slew of Onion-like examples of stories The New York Times has seen fit to print on its front page (for those of you new to MBH, some personal favorites are here, here, here and here.) The feature even got some press in Editor and Publisher after I emailed the excellent Greg Mitchell regarding his article "Before 9/11 Changed Everything," in which he said, "Oh, for those days when the Times was criticized for running soft news on Page One! If we could only turn back the clock." I pointed out to Greg that regardless
of the changed world, our paper of record never altered its practice of placing
soft news (mixed with serious of course) on its cover, which was precisely
what inspired this ongoing series (however sporadic new items for it are posted). (Needless to say, Greg, as opposed to many in the mainstream, not only took criticism in stride but sent it to his managing editor to publish in E&P's letters to the editor.)
After a long hiatus, here's another entry (some days The Onion really has nothing on The Times):
What can one really say about this? Long story short, Ohio and Kentucky are fighting over who owns a rock. Literally. Did the world screech to a halt at some point during the last 24 hours that might have caused The Times to run out of viable news, let alone stories deserving of the cover?
Intro and excerpts:
An eight-ton rock rested for generations at the bottom of the Ohio River, minding its own business as time and currents passed. It favored neither Ohio to the north nor Kentucky to the south. It just — was.
Some Ohioans say the rock is an important piece of Portsmouth history and should be put on display. Some Kentuckians say the rock is an important piece of Kentucky, period, and should be returned. And some in both states say: I’ve been distracted by war, recession and a presidential campaign, so forgive me. But are we fighting over a rock? [You left out: And are you featuring this story?]
Last month the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a resolution demanding the rock’s return to its watery bed, with one of its members suggesting that a raiding party to Portsmouth might be in order. Not to be outdone, the Ohio House of Representatives is considering a resolution that asserts the rock’s significance to Ohio, and its speaker has said he is ready to guard the boulder with his muzzle-loading shotgun.
BACK (page 8):
Glowing reviews of the "surge" notwithstanding, the daily bloodbath in Iraq beats on. Though news of it is often shoved to the side, even, in The Times' own words, when it comes to "one of the deadliest" terrorist car bombings of the year.
At least 23 people were killed Sunday after a car bomb exploded north of Baghdad at a checkpoint run by the police and citizen patrols of Iraqis who have turned against the insurgency, Iraqi officials said.
Amid a steep overall reduction in violence here over the last several months, the blast, near a market outside of Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, was one of the deadliest this year. At least 40 people, most of them civilians, were wounded, the hospital in Balad reported.
This report also reveals the ever-changing narrative on the ground. If it's to be believed, Iraqi citizen patrols, also called "Awakening groups," are making inroads against Sunni Arab extremists (while paying a big price).
On a day in which the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, made an unannounced visit to Iraq, the attack underscored the continuing struggle between Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the citizen patrols known as Awakening groups that have been credited with substantially reducing the number of attacks here since last summer.
Near Mosul, in the north, five more Awakening members were killed Sunday in an attack, in which 10 insurgents also died, the United States military said.
At least 100 Awakening members have been killed in the last few weeks.
Why might I question the success of this group?
The American military sought to bolster its case on Sunday that the Awakening groups, with the increased United States military presence north and west of the capital, were weakening Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign led.
Officials released two seized documents they said had been hand-written by members of the group, in despair about defections and decreasing popular support.
“The Islamic State of Iraq is faced with an extraordinary crisis,” read one of the documents, which the military said was seized last summer in Samarra, a town northwest of Baghdad. “The renegades and Americans started launching their attacks to destroy us. We lost cities, and afterward villages, and the desert became a dangerous refuge.”
Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a American military spokesman, said the 39-page document had been written by a mid- to high-level insurgent, worried, among other things, about the growth of Awakening groups. The Awakening groups have some 77,500 members across Iraq, mostly Sunni tribesmen, many of whom are former insurgents.
The second document, Admiral Smith said, was a diary written by an insurgent in Balad. The writer, identified as Abu Tariq, complains that his fighters had defected to Awakening groups, reducing the number of men he commanded to 20 from 600.
"Al Qaeda remains a significant and dangerous threat to Iraq,” he [Admiral Smith] said. But he contended that the two documents “tell narrow but compelling stories of the challenges Al Qaeda Iraq is facing as Iraqis have stood up against their indiscriminate violence and broken ideology.”
The military, citing security concerns, released only excerpts of the two document.
Now, about that rock...
Editor's Note: h/t to my good friend Dan for today's NYT Front|Back item. Though he doesn't have a site for me to link to (a shame because his insight into media and politics would surely stir interest), I wanted to give him props for this and also for being an invaluable supporter of MBH from the beginning. Cheers, sir!