You can tell by looking at him that CNN’s Iraq reporter Michael Ware has been banged about a bit. But was it because he was cocking a snoot or was he defending his principles? Looking at the guy, it’s hard to tell; it could easily be either.
And that’s the problem with Ware as a TV reporter. You’re never quite sure if he’s hot on the trail of truth, or simply taking the mickey out of a situation, milking it for all its drama.
Thus, the headline: Is Michael Ware the last honest TV journalist or does he have an agenda?
What Ware does better than all the others, certainly all others at CNN, is to include the larger picture in all his reporting. Just because the sun peeked through for an hour today doesn’t alter the fact that it has been overcast all week.
To show how much the big picture matters, let’s look at his compatriots at CNN.
King, Henry, Star, McIntyre, Bash — all of them reporting from the White House, from State, from the Pentagon, wherever, report each day on the utterances given to them as if there was no context. “Vice President DIck Cheney said today: yada, yada, yada — an accurate gist of what he said as if Cheney said them in an entire vacuum. Never mind that he said the opposite last month or chastised someone else for saying the same thing last year, they just play it straight, with little background, little context and absolutely no sense of the veracity of the words: he said it, here it is, end of story, “over to you, Wolf.” It’s annoying and it isn’t journalism, it is to reporting what stenography is to words.
Compare their approach to Ware’s. Here is an example:
Michael Ware was on CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week after the Larry King – Dick Cheney interview and was asked if Cheney’s characterization of the war in Iraq had been right.
Said Ware: “Well, Anderson, there is progress. And that’s indisputable. Sectarian violence is down in certain pockets. There are areas of great instability in this country. They’re at last finding some stability.
“The point, though, is, at what price? What we’re seeing is — is, to a degree, some sleight of hand. What America needs to come clean about is that it’s achieving these successes by cutting deals primarily with its enemies. We have all heard the administration praise the work of the tribal sheiks in turning against al Qaeda. Well, this is just a euphemism for the Sunni insurgency. That’s who has turned against al Qaeda.”
With Ware we get real insight into what is happening in Iraq, at least his opinion of what is happening in Iraq, and it is always at odds, not only with the Bush Administration’s picture, but also with the reporting of most every other TV journalist, too because they, like the CNN reporters, report the tiny picture of the moment but almost entirely without giving us a sense of the greater picture. Ware does that, he does it every time.
And good on him. BUT …
Is Ware right? Or is he simply opining?
Ware is an Australian so he isn’t imbued with the hubris of American patriotism. Does his accent allow him to give un-American views when all the others play it within the centrifugal forces of conventional Americana?
All the police forces and most corporations have attractive and somewhat frail women spokesperson these days because they know that we want to give these ladies every benefit of the doubt. Does having a foreign reporter on staff play into the same kind of dynamic: we will take an anti-establishment, unconventional message if it some with a foreign accent?
Compare Michael Ware’s reporting to the man he replaced, Nic Robertson. Ware is outrageous to Robertson’s deferential conventionality.
But does Ware have an agenda?
While the face of the pugilist is hard to read, there seems to be real conviction in his words, and sincerity and empathy. Or is just having a go at us?
Hard to know but the guy seems and sounds believable when almost no one else does.