Don't let anyone tell you the foreign correspondents at the New York Times have to be experts in their field. The New York Observer reports that the latest Times export to the Baghdad bureau is Campbell Robertson, who has written gossip items for the "Boldface Names" column and is currently their reporter on....Broadway. The Observer's cutesy headline is "From Kicklines to Frontlines." John Koblin writes:
In some ways, it’s unbelievable that a man who wrote a story for Monday’s Times recapping the Tonys—for instance, he wrote that the awards tried to "goose ratings" by including more numbers from Rent this year—is going to be filing with Basra and Mosul datelines before old story subjects are back from the Hamptons.
"Look, he’s an untraditional war correspondent the way a lot of us are," said Mr. Glanz, who was a science writer before leaving for Baghdad four years ago. "He’s coming from a different background and point of view from everyone else there. And right now, we can use some fresh ideas and perspectives."
"Fresh ideas and perspectives" is journalist-speak for "so green he thinks Kurds are made of cheese."
I'm sure this will make a great item on Mr. Robertson's resume and may be the beginnings of a beautiful career. But let's never hear the Times mock anyone else for suggesting that Iraq's too serious for on-the-job training. In geopolitical terms, this is the Times waving the white flag of surrender, that Iraq is calmly improving, in spite of the Times. They are quietly admitting Iraq will no longer be a defining issue of our times when we're sending the guy who writes about "Moose Murders" to report the scoop from Mosul.
Mr. Robertson, who declined to comment for this item, will start on a rotation in Baghdad in the beginning of July at a time (as The Observer documented last week) when the story is falling from the front page of newspapers more and more, and when newspapers are having to find more young reporters to fill positions in their Baghdad bureaus.
"We’re taking a really strategic approach to writing about it," said Susan Chira, the paper’s foreign editor, in a recent interview. "Sure, in 2004 the place was blowing up, and things are calmer now, but there are different stories. We’re completely committed, and we don’t think it’s going away."
What desperate spin! You don't show you're "completely committed" by sending greenhorns to the Green Zone.