08/07/2007 10:00 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How MSM Covered Karzai's Visit but Failed to Inform the Public

Dear CNN, New York Times and AP:

At Yearly Kos, the collective warmth and generosity of spirit reminded me of that most important lesson: We're all in this together. After George Bush is gone in 2009, Rupert Murdoch will still be around to poison the well of free and honest debate. So I'm resolved to keep my criticism of mainstream media free from gratuitous snarkiness.

And in the spirit of being helpful, let me offer you some tough love. Your pieces on Karzai's Washington visit were, I regret to say, virtually substance-free. Reread your work products here, here and here. Be honest, do they offer anything informative beyond, "Karzai: Iran is a helper"?

Don't despair. There's a four-step program to put your journalism on the road to recovery. I vouch for it myself. Whenever a foreign leader says something slightly contrary to The White House party line...

Step 1: Grab an intern.
Step 2: Tell the intern, "Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said Iran is 'a helper and a solution.' Why would he say that? What's been going on between Afghanistan and Iran? Do some research in the internet and see what you can find."
Step 3: Read and evaluate what the intern brings back.
Step 4: Use some relevant facts to provide some context to Karsai's statement. That way, your readers, or viewers, will be getting something more than words in a vacuum.

Using myself as an intern, I proved that the four steps work. With less than 10 minutes of random Googling, I found this from our very own State Department:

"There is overwhelming evidence of Iran's strong commitment to keep drugs leaving Afghanistan from reaching its citizens. As Iran strives to achieve this goal, it also prevents drugs from reaching markets in the West.


"Iran's actions support the global effort against international drug trafficking, and have won the praise of such knowledgeable observers of the international effort against narcotics as UNODC Director, Antonio Maria Costa. Iran stands to be one of the major benefactors of any long-term reduction in drug production/trafficking from Afghanistan, as it is one of the biggest victims of the recent increase in opium/heroin production there now. The United States anticipates that Iran will continue to pursue policies and actions in support of efforts to combat drug production and trafficking."

Oh. So maybe that's why Karzai called Iran a helper. And maybe this government document is more informative than Bush's response, which used these 16 words - "I would be very cautious about whether the Iranian influence in Afghanistan is a positive force," -- to say nothing.

Again, I promise not to attack MSM journalism with the same snarkiness that I used in this earlier piece in HuffPost: Judy Miller, Redux. The Times Touts the Party Line on Iran By Ignoring the War on Drugs.