- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2003

An eclectic approach

It would be nice to have near-limitless resources and an extensive network of staff bureaus around the world so that, as with some of our wealthier competitors, almost every story that appears on our foreign pages could come from our own reporters.

But we don’t.

We cover as much as we can with our Washington-based staff reporters and send them traveling as much as the budget will allow. And we supplement their efforts with an excellent crew of free-lance contributors who pitch in from every corner of the globe.

Even then, we have no choice but to rely heavily on the wire agencies — principally the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse — and the offerings of a few newspaper syndicates.

We try to approach this not as a weakness but a strength. If our competitors have to rely on the efforts of a single staff reporter on a major breaking story, we are able to look at three or four versions of the story and choose the one we like the best.

I sometimes think of it as a “Reader’s Digest” approach to the news. Each day we present our readers with the most useful and interesting package of stories we can muster from the wide range of sources available.

One of the more interesting of those sources is the London Daily Telegraph, which each afternoon makes its top stories for the next day available to this and other newspapers that subscribe to its syndication service.

On the top stories of the day, it tends to be weaker than the wire agencies simply because of the time difference. London deadlines are five to six hours earlier than in Washington, making it hard for them to compete on a developing story such as the latest battlefield results from Iraq.

But they also offer a number of exclusive reports such as an article on the plight of Iraqi Christians living in the Sunni triangle west of Baghdad, which appeared on our front page on Wednesday.

And they provide a number of delightfully quirky items, only a few of which we are able to publish for reasons of space.

The long march

One such item came from Rahul Bedi in New Delhi, who wrote early last week about India’s so-called “Tandoori murder.” The article began like this:

“A former leading member of India’s Congress Party was convicted of murder Monday for killing his wife, covering her in butter and attempting to roast her in a restaurant’s tandoor oven.”

The item went on to explain how the killer had shot to death his wife and then butchered her body. He then “took the pieces to … a New Delhi restaurant, on a night when it was closed, coated them with ghee — clarified butter — to help them burn, and stuffed them into its tandoor.

“A policeman noticed the smell of cooking meat while the restaurant was closed, and the [restaurant] was raided.”

We omitted that story more for reasons of space than of taste. Similarly, we had to pass on using this item from Michael Leidig in Vienna:

“The world’s biggest sperm bank has been forced to start screening all donors for any criminal record after it emerged that a man who killed his two baby daughters had been on their books.

“Horrified parents who gave birth after receiving semen from the Cryos International Sperm Bank in Aarhus, Denmark, have flooded the clinic with calls seeking reassurance that the killer, Heine Nielsen, was not the father of their child.”

One other Telegraph item that we failed to find room for told the story of two British adventurers who had, on foot, retraced the entire route of the famous “Long March” undertaken by Mao Tse-tung and his Chinese communist followers in 1934 and 1935.

Their surprising finding: “Their conclusion was that they had walked 4,000 miles, a remarkable feat but not quite the same as that recorded by Chinese history books, which put the march at between 5,500 and 7,000 miles.”

David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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