A couple of “What is the Star thinking?” notes

by David Safier

A little venting about a few items in the Sunday Star, in print and online.

First, the big news of the day is that the U.S. and Russia have reached a deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. It's still a work in progress and no one knows how all this will work out, but it's big news, no? So the Star decides to put a decent, factual story about the deal from the Washington Post on page 5: "Deal reached to seize Syria's chemical arms." What the Star put on the front page is an AP analysis which readers see before they come to the story: "Chemical-arms deal puts Russia back at Mideast table." Before readers know the details in the page 5 story, they learn on the front page that Obama has given away the political farm to Putin. The deal, according to the analysis, means Obama gets some cover for the "White House waffling" on the airstrikes while it "restore[s] Moscow to its place as a pivotal Mideast player."

Man, the U.S. lost big on this by deciding not to bomb Syria — a move that wouldn't get rid of Syria's chemical weapons — and working together with Russia to try and destroy Syria's chemical arsenal. At least that's the AP take on the story — a take the Star thinks is more important than the facts of the story itself.

About that AP analysis: Like lots of what comes out of the AP, it has a strong anti-Obama slant. It backs up its assertions by quoting two experts. One is Jonathan Adelman, professor at the University of Denver Korbel School of International Studies. You can also find him listed as part of the speakers bureau for the Jewish National Fund. Nothing wrong with that, of course, except that it means Adelman views the Mideast through the lens of what's best for Israel, not through a more objective, global perspective. The other expert is R. Nicholas Burns, professor of international relations at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Not mentioned is that Burns was appointed by George W. Bush to serve as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under Condoleezza Rice. So we have an ardent supporter of Israel and someone from the previous Republican administration to serve as the only experts in the article on the Mideast and the U.S./Russia balance of power. Not exactly a balance of "expert opinions."

Second is the Star's choices on coverage of Obamacare.

You might have noticed I didn't link to the online versions of the Star articles mentioned above. That's because you can't find them online. The Star's website is basically devoted to local stories with a smattering of national and world stories thrown in. My first thought is that the Star doesn't have permission from the AP or other news agencies to put their stories online. But then I see this AP story linked to on the Star website's home page: Employers look to cut back on spousal coverage. It's one of those "Uh oh, problems with Obamacare" stories.

Which is an interesting choice, because the Star has been running a good series of articles on the upcoming implementation of Obamacare in its print edition that I haven't been able to locate on its website without going through an elaborate search process — and I could only use the search successfully because I had already read the story in print.

It's also an interesting choice because the Star has a good, informative article from the AZ Republic in today's Tucson & Region section: "Five insurers outline rates for AZ under health law." Lots of valuable information in there — if you get the paper edition. When I looked deeper, I was able to find the online version in the State and Region section of the website.

Strange choice. The AP story featured online, which is short on valuable information for people who will begin looking for health insurance on the exchanges in October, didn't even make it into print, while online readers have to hunt for the far more valuable story that appears in print.

I haven't spent a whole lot of time carping about the Star lately, because I think, all things considered, it's a reasonably good local daily, especially when I compare it to some papers I see when I travel elsewhere. But when it could be a better paper in print and online without expending any extra energy or an extra dime, just by making some better decisions, as in the two instances in the Sunday paper, it needs to be pointed out.

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