Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Slow Bleed, How it feeds

Editor John Harris at has this revealing confession today:

I am the author of the Democratic Party's "slow-bleed strategy" for ending the war in Iraq.

I had nothing to do with the details of the plan that Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) floated two weeks ago
"Even as the House begins debate on a resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more U.S. combat troops to Iraq, leading anti-war groups are preparing a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign and grassroots lobbying blitz designed to pressure vulnerable incumbent lawmakers to end their support for the war."

VandeHei and I read the article and were impressed by the detail of Bresnahan's reporting. But, as editors always do, we had our quibbles. Like the lead paragraph: Too bulky, and too bland. The story was a good bit better than the introduction.

We rushed the patient to the operating table for emergency surgery. With VandeHei hovering over my shoulder, this is what I came up with:

"Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options."

That is not exactly prize-winning prose, but it seemed a little snappier to us -- and more on point.

and concludes with:

A journalist's job is to clarify political debate, not further muddy it. In the two weeks since his original article, Bresnahan's reporting has continued to clarify the unfolding Iraq argument, even as his editors made life more difficult for him.

So there you have it -- how the sausage gets made in a newsroom. Not always the most appetizing sight.

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