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September 04, 2013

On Israel, The Washington Post Does Well, USA Today Does Better

Israel, caught in the cross hairs, jittery over Syria.jpg

The Washington Post’s “As U.S. allies weigh strike on Syria, Israelis rush for gas masks” (Aug. 29, 2013) was informative and current. The 17-paragraph article, by Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief William Booth and Ruth Eglash, explained how Israeli officials were distributing, and citizens lining up for gas masks in preparation for a possible Syrian attack. The regime of Bashar al-Assad had threatened Israel if the United States struck Syria for using poison gas against its own people as part of that country’s civil war.

The Post report, on page A-9, recalled Israelis’ use of “safe rooms” during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired missiles at the Jewish state in response to the U.S.-led campaign to evict his troops from Kuwait. It quoted Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for international affairs, strategy and intelligence, that Syrian leaders “have no barriers, no moral inhibitions.” And it was illustrated with a two column by 2-½ inch color photograph of Israelis picking up free gas masks at a distribution point.

Nevertheless, USA Today scooped The Post with its lead front-page article, “Syrian crisis sparks worry across globe; Israelis, caught in the cross hairs, are busy stocking up on gas masks” (August 28). A day earlier than The Post’s coverage, USA Today’s Michele Chabin, Kate Shuttleworth and Oren Dorell went into greater depth, quoted more officials sources, including a member of Assad’s Ba’ath Party who threatened Israeli directly, and more average Israelis.

Two large photographs in the print edition illustrated USA Today’s 38-paragraph news-feature. A two column (over three) by five-inch color picture showing a mother helping her young daughter wear a gas mask dominated the front page. A three and a-half column by five inches deep black-and-white, portraying Israelis in line for gas masks, highlighted the continuation on page two. An American analyst was paraphrased as saying “the threats by Iran and Syria [to attack Israel in response to a U.S. strike against Damascus] are not idle ones, and could have drastic repercussions.”

USA Today lacks The Post’s resources for foreign news coverage. But in this case, it got there first with more column inches, giving readers a more comprehensive picture of Israel’s neighborhood.

Posted by ER at September 4, 2013 02:41 PM

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