Reporting on a subject used to require journalists to actually be there (you know, reporting on an event), but with the advent of wire services media outlets could just take news someone else has made.
This is related to the decline in quality and oversight in news. It's very disappointing, but situations like the "Rathergate" memos the story was too good to care about the little facts. Like how the terminology wasn't quite correct for memos from that age, or used odd typesetting that wasn't really possible, or the most egregious example that a messaged supposedly written in the 70's would be a perfect match for something typed up in word on the default settings.
Journalists are supposed to be suspicious and skeptical, but many have shown a desire to look the other way when the story matches their own prejudices. See my previous post on checking a report's numbers for some obvious examples.
This leads to a simple question? Who's information on an event would you trust more: a person that witnessed it or a person that heard about it from someone else?
It's the issue of primary sources versus secondary or tertiary.
Which leads to the situation in Iraq. Some amazing changes have, seemingly begrudgingly, bubbled up into the media and then soon forgotten.
But there were some people that knew about the effects of the Surge and other issues.
What I'm talking about is primary sources. Journalists that are actually in Iraq, and they're not just sitting in a hotel room funneling stories told to them by stringers of dubious quality.
They're out there reporting on events, talking with the troops, both grunt level and generals, talking with Iraqis, from security forces to sheiks and other local leaders.
To name two, one is Michael Totten. He has also reported on the Hezbollah/Israel war last year. His writings on Lebanon are also very informative and detailed.
Michael Yon is another reporter of great skill and has reported on much first-hand experience.
Say what you will about the war, but wouldn't it be better to have an informed opinion?
To read reports written by people that are actually there?