10/25/2006 10:00 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Play Catch-up and Bury the Lede at the Same Time

Today's NYT carries a report on an audit of Iraqi reconstruction spending by the US, which says more than half of the money was spent on overhead, not on Iraqi reconstruction. It echoes in many ways this story from the Washington Post last April. Bad enough that the Times, hailed by Kurt Anderson in a recent column on the LAT's travails as "the greatest newspaper in the world", is months behind the Post on the basic story--that the Iraqi reconstruction is a failure. But, unlike the Post, the Times tended to bury the lede--who the customer was who allowed the rampant waste to continue. Here's that paragraph, quoting a spokesperson from contractor KBR (a division of Halliburton) deep in the Times story:

Melissa Norcross, a spokeswoman for K.B.R., said in a written reply to questions, "It is important to note that the special inspector general is not challenging any of K.B.R.'s costs referenced in this report."

"All of these costs were incurred at the client's direction and for the client's benefit," Ms. Norcross said, referring to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the oil contract.

Hmm. The Army Corps and its contracting practices were at the center of the Post's story, way back when. The Times story leaves out the cozy relationship between Corps and contractors that explains how such a massive failure could have occurred. Maybe too small a detail for the 'world's greatest newspaper"....