Reporting on Politics: Deciphering Press Conferences

One of the most difficult things that the ordinary citizen has to do when formulating a political opinion is deciphering between truth and lies… between those two words is a whole range of meaning from “spin” to “exagerration” to “implication”.

This applies to any and all government/countries/public/media. As long as you have a press that is free to question the government, you will have the opportunity to be baffled by the side-speak of politicians.

I recently read a transcript of a press briefing on the 300 tons of missing IAEA sealed weaponry in a supply dump in Iraq.

When you’re watching a briefing link this, it can go by so fast that you don’t see all the dynamics of the conversation… but after reading the transcript I suddenly have a lot more respect for the work that a reporter must do to glean information from a speaker that might not want to answer certain questions directly.

Check out this Transcript from a Press Breifing…
the “Major” was a commander in Iraq who led efforts to dispose of Iraqi ammunition. Larry Dirita is The Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. They are both taking questions from a press gallery at the Pentagon.

  • Q But Larry, you’ve told us that you believe part of the 250 tons represents the material under question. You have said that.
  • MR. DIRITA: Represents some portion of the material —
  • Q The major has not said that. So we would like to hear from him —
  • MR. DIRITA: Did you believe you had RDX in there?
  • MAJ. PEARSON: I had plastic explosives in there. Sir, I —
  • Q It’s HMX that we’re concerned about. And you’ve seen that video that the affiliate —
  • MR. DIRITA: I have not seen the video.
  • Q You’ve not shown him the video of the barrels? Didn’t you just say you showed him the pictures?
  • MR. DIRITA: We saw some photos from yesterday and had understood that — as I said, the palletized boxes, I think you said, those were the kinds of things you removed.
  • MAJ. PEARSON: Roger.

Get that? Now try this…

  • Q: HMX is the only thing under seal. Did you see seals? Did you go into locked bunkers? You said you only went into bunkers that were easily accessible.
  • MAJ. PEARSON: My mission was to go into bunkers and to prevent the exposure –
  • Q Were they locked?
  • MAJ. PEARSON: — that — I went to — in bunkers that we could easily get into and remove that. That was —
  • Q What does that mean? Sorry, can you clarify?
  • MAJ. PEARSON: That it was open and I was able to take my troops in there and that it was exposed.
  • Q There were no seals. So that would suggest that it was not HMX.
  • MAJ. PEARSON: No seals — I did not see any seals.
  • MR. DIRITA: Unless somebody else had come by and already opened the seals
  • Q Major? Major, do you —
  • Q But you saw the video of April 18th. The video of April 18th shows U.S. forces going into bunkers that are locked, and there are seals on some of those bunkers.
  • MR. DIRITA: And that’s correct. And it’s not — we don’t know. Certainly Major Pearson had no responsibility, and we just don’t know to this point. And as we learn — I think we’ve tried to demonstrate that as we learn things, we’ll be sure to tell you.

Wow… I would have a heck of a headache if I had to be one of those reporters trying to get a straight answer.

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