13 February, 2008

Burying Fragmenting the Lede

One should no longer be surprised by the AP's coverage of Iraq, but this headline caught my attention: "Iraqi hospital chief linked to al-Qaida."

So, how exactly is he "linked to al-Qaida?" Is he a mouthpiece like the hospital leadership in Fallujah years ago? Is he a financier, maybe? No, he's accused of providing "information" to terrorists:

BAGHDAD - The acting administrator of a psychiatric hospital in Baghdad has been detained on suspicion that he played a role in supplying patient information to al-Qaida in Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

That's certainly odd. Since when did the U.S. military start enforcing Iraqi patient confidentiality?

Paragraph two informs us that the U.S. military conducted a "thorough search" of the al-Rashid psychiatric hospital. Hunh? Paragraph three:
"Coalition forces detained a hospital administrator in connection with the possible exploitation of mentally impaired women to al-Qaida," Smith said.

Ah, we're getting warmer now. On to paragraph four:
"The administrator remains in coalition force detention and is being questioned to determine what role if any in supplying al-Qaida with information regarding patients at the al-Rashad psychiatric hospital or from other medical facilities in Baghdad," he added.

Again, why does the Coalition care about patient confidentiality? Paragraph five:
He said the man, whom he did not identify, was detained as part of the investigation into the Feb. 1 bombings of two crowded pet markets in Baghdad. He said he could not provide more details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Bombings of Baghdad pet markets? That rings a bell... Paragraph six:
U.S. and Iraqi officials blamed al-Qaida for the bombings and said the bombers were two mentally disabled women strapped with remote-control explosives and apparently did not know they were being used. Iraqi officials put the death toll at 99 in both attacks.

Hmm... maybe there's a connection between paragraphs one and six? The AP doesn't say. The next paragraph is the final one:

The U.S. military later expressed concern that al-Qaida was increasingly turning to women and children as suicide bombers to get around stepped up security measures.

Well, that's an odd little article, isn't it... Fortunately, a Times of London reporter (article reproduced in a Canadian newspaper) manages to write a proper lede:
BAGHDAD — The acting director of a Baghdad psychiatric hospital has been arrested on suspicion of supplying al-Qaida in Iraq with the mentally impaired women it used to blow up two crowded animal markets in the city on Feb. 1, killing about 100 people.

Reuters buries it in paragraph nine of eleven, under the headline "U.S. Raids Iraq Psychiatric Hospital Over Attacks." CNN does a better job under the headline "U.S. Probes Hospital Link to Bombings," using the "supply patient information" line in the first paragraph and connecting it to the bombings in the second. They also offer the context that the previous administrator had been "gunned down" in December, but do not explicitly say the new director is suspected of "supplying" the women to Al Qaeda.

Just another example of "professional" journalism, I suppose.

[h/t to Free Falling for the Times of London article.]