Sunday, June 04, 2006

Picture This

Let's suppose I'm a person who wants to know the news of the world. Where would I go to learn it? To a newspaper, right?

Maybe. It depends if it's a paper that runs stories off the Washington Post news wire.


My God, that's awful. And I, being a reader of typical curiosity, want to know the 5 "Ws" of the story, including "who." Here's how it forms in my head, reading just this story [emphasis and artwork added throughout]:

TORONTO - Canadian intelligence agents and police arrested 17 people

who had amassed a huge cache of explosives and were ready to bomb public targets, authorities said Saturday.

Twelve men, ages 19 to 43,

and five juveniles were seized in raids in the suburbs of Toronto. Police said the suspects, most of whom were believed to be Canadian citizens,

had assembled three tons of ammonium nitrate and fashioned a cell phone into a detonator.

The potential for bloodshed was large. The bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla., in 1995

killed 168 people with two tons of the same chemical fertilizer packed in a truck.

Authorities declined to identify the group's planned targets, but a report in the Toronto Star newspaper said the sites included the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and the downtown offices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, near the famed CN Tower in Toronto.

The suspects appeared Saturday in a Toronto court to face charges under Canada's terrorism laws, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Authorities gave few details about the men, who all had Arabic names.

Oh, now we begin to get somewhere. Only now, after, what, five full graphs, and down near the point where the story jumps to the inside of the newspaper (in my local paper, this was on the inside page) does this become a story about potential Islamist terrorists.

Which might interest me a great deal, and you'd think the journalists might realize that. Instead they hide it.

Alvin Chand, a brother of suspect Steven Vikash Chand, said outside the courthouse that his brother was innocent and authorities "just want to show they're doing something."

Except "Chand" is not an "Arabic name." It's Sikh. You'd think someone who knew enough about this case to know the Middle Eastern angle was something I did not need to know right away also would know an Arabic name when he saw one.

But that seems less important to the producers of this article than their need to spin half a dozen paragraphs of protestations of innocense right after the mention of the dread phrase about men with Arabic names.

Also at the court hearing was Aly Hindy, an imam of an Islamic center that houses a school and a mosque and has been monitored by security agencies for years. He said he knows nine of the suspects and that Muslims once again were being falsely accused.

And so on, and so forth, and so on.

And they wonder why we don't read it anymore.