- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 8, 2002

Powell in Johannesburg
Collecting the information that goes into our newspaper is often the easy part; what's hard is figuring out how to organize and condense it so that readers can digest it quickly and easily.
On Wednesday, for instance, news was flowing in from all directions about U.S. plans for a military campaign against Iraq.
We wanted to lead our story with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who was in Johannesburg for the Earth Summit and lobbying world leaders on the sidelines to solidify opposition to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
This was partly because our own correspondent, Paul Martin, had been at a briefing with the secretary in which he had talked about Iraq; it was also because some European leaders had come out of their talks with Mr. Powell saying they now expected the Bush administration to seek a U.N. resolution demanding the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.
But there was plenty of other material that we wanted to get into the story:
Reuters news agency was reporting from Jerusalem that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had ordered his emergency and security service officials to be ready by early November to deal with any Iraqi attack in response to a U.S. assault on Iraq.
The Associated Press was quoting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin as saying that his country would not tone down its opposition to an attack, and that Britain's Tony Blair who a day earlier had made a speech supporting the United States did not speak for all of Europe.
The French government was objecting to another element of Mr. Blair's speech in which he had promised to release a dossier containing evidence of Saddam's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to Agence France-Presse in Paris.
In London, Reuters said, interviews with British Cabinet ministers and others left the impression that Mr. Blair's dossier, when it became public, would contain little in the way of startling new revelations.
Yet another Reuters report from London said the U.S. Navy had chartered a large cargo ship to carry tanks and heavy armor from the southeast U.S. coast to an unspecified Middle Eastern port in the Persian Gulf.

Putting it together
In addition to the Iraq material, we wanted to have another story that featured Mr. Powell's address to the closing day of the U.N. conference and summed up what had been accomplished during the 10 days of talks. We were particularly interested to see whether we could report just how much foreign aid had been promised by the U.S. delegation during the conference.
Mr. Martin was willing to take on both stories, but we feared that if we piled too much on his plate the stories would either be rushed or late for our deadlines.
As it happened, international trade reporter Carter Dougherty in Washington was already planning a story looking at the fate of trade issues in Johannesburg; with the business editor's permission, we got him to broaden that into an overall look at the summit, using his own reporting, wire services from Johannesburg and some notes filed by Mr. Martin.
Meanwhile we asked Mr. Martin to focus his energies on the Iraq story, leading with the idea that the United States and Europe had agreed in Johannesburg to pursue an international consensus before initiating any attack on Iraq.
We took the French and British items on Mr. Blair's planned dossier and combined them into a short separate item with an additional paragraph from Mr. Martin, who quoted Mr. Powell saying the United States was also preparing to release evidence about Saddam's weapons program.
Then we rewrote the rest of the wire agency material the Schroeder quotes, the Israeli preparations and the booking of the weapons ship into about half a dozen paragraphs ready to be woven into Mr. Martin's main story.
But like all good plans, this one went awry at the last minute: The senior editors decided at 6 p.m. they wanted a front-page story that led with President Bush's meeting with congressional leaders in Washington and included Mr. Powell in Johannesburg.
That was resolved easily enough. We took those Powell quotes from Mr. Martin's story that fit best with the tenor of the front-page story and turned those over to the national desk. With what was left, we were still able to put together a strong story for an inside page along the lines we had originally planned.
David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is [email protected]


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