A non-China quickie during a workbreak. Seconds ago this article in the NY Times jumped out at me for its dramatic headline, and then for the big hole in the opening grafs.
4 Accused of Bombing Plot at Bronx Synagogues
Four men were arrested Wednesday night in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.
The men, all of whom live in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City, were arrested around 9 p.m. after planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, officials said. But the men did not know the bombs, provided by an informant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were fake.
The arrests capped what officials described as a “painstaking investigation” that began in June 2008 involving an F.B.I. agent who had been told by a federal informant of the men’s desire to attack targets in America. As part of the plot, the men intended to fire stinger missiles at military aircraft at the base, which is at Stewart International Airport, officials said.
Alright. We all know the inverted pyramid of journalism, the importance of who, what, where, when, how and, if possible, why. All of that is supposed to be delivered upfront, hopefully in the lede. Not here. The immediate question I had the second I saw the headline was, Who planned the bombing and what was their motivation? Were these Islamists or skinheads or an enraged former employee or…? But to find out, you have to look a full ten grafs down:
They are all Muslim, a law enforcement official said.
Mr. Cromitie, who is of Afghan descent, had told the informant that he was upset about the war in Afghanistan and that that he wanted to “do something to America.” Cromitie stated “the best target” — the World Trade Center — “was hit already,” according to the complaint.
The point isn’t about Muslims or Jews. It’s about what appears to be the media’s insistence on tiptoeing around what they see as sensitive topics. But to bury in the 10th graf some of the most revealing and useful information, stuff readers expect to see in the first, is inexplicable. I’m trying to imagine a report on the first arrests made for the September 11 attacks, but not mentioning Al Qaeda or the suspect’s home countries until midway into the story. Impossible. In this story, the suspects are simply referred to generically as “the men,” without a word of background, until halfway through.
This is not the way they taught us at NYU Journalism School.
(Note, I use a question mark in the title because maybe it really is good journalism and I’m just not seeing it. A part of me says the NYT couldn’t be so amateurish, and I must be missing something.)
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.