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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

January 30, 1994|CHRIS GOODRICH

WHO STOLE THE NEWS? Why We Can't Keep Up with What Happens in the World and What We Can Do About It by Mort Rosenblum (John Wiley: $24.95; 298 pp.). There's a good reason that editors, rather than reporters, are responsible for thinking up newspaper headlines--because reporters aren't very good, by and large, at summing up their own work. Case in point: this book, the title of which is so inappropriate it could have come only from the author's typewriter. Mort Rosenblum, a special correspondent for the Associated Press and former editor of the International Herald Tribune, is intent on showing that international affairs are under-covered, and mis-covered, by the U.S. media, but "Who Stole the News?" is more a grab-bag than an argument--and certainly doesn't live up to its conspiracy-implying title. Rosenblum is right to point out that newspaper executives in this country underestimate the value and importance of foreign affairs coverage--it's revealing that two Tokyo newspapers have twice as many foreign correspondents as the New York Times, that the Gannett chain has no overseas bureaus--and to note that the U.S. government and modern network television, between them, have turned U.S. action abroad into controlled photo ops. At the same time, however, good foreign coverage is available to those who actively seek it out, and numerous enterprising journalists do manage to sidestep bureaucratic spin-control. Rosenblum undercuts his thesis by citing many instances of the latter--in Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia and elsewhere--and those sections of the book prove its most effective. Rosenblum is particularly troubled by the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, which he believes might have been moderated, and possibly averted altogether, had the press covered the brewing mess in its formative stages, yet in many ways his analysis seems a product of 20/20 hindsight. Sure, the press was wrong to take an artificially "balanced" view of the Serb-Croat-Muslim war once it was clear the Serbs were the aggressors, bent on genocide . . . but on the other hand, if Vietnam taught us anything, it is that the U.S. should decline all invitations to become the world's policeman.

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