Follow Through On Follow Up

Nearly a month ago, I wrote in this space about the Associated Press' Ron Fournier writing a Jerry McGuire-esque "Mission Statement" to the DC bureau, encouraging reporters to write "Accountability Journalism" stories with a purpose. In his note to the AP folks, Fournier wrote:
We can be provocative without being partisan. We can be truth-tellers without being editorial writers. We can and we must not only tell people what happened in politics today, but why it happened; what it might mean for our readers and their families; and what it might reveal about the people who presume to be our leaders. Sometimes, they're just plain wrong.
One of the four pillars of this approach was journalistic follow-up. So in that spirit, I thought I'd follow-up on that piece and highlight an example of his concept at work.

The front page story in yesterday's Washington Post, entitled "Administration Shaving Yardstick for Iraq Gains," was a solid bit of reporting on how the goals being targeted by the White House don't necessarily jibe with those originally envisioned at the beginning of the 'surge' we're in the middle of:

In a preview of the assessment it must deliver to Congress in September, the administration will report that Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province are turning against the group al-Qaeda in Iraq in growing numbers; that sectarian killings were down in June; and that Iraqi political leaders managed last month to agree on a unified response to the bombing of a major religious shrine, officials said.

Those achievements are markedly different from the benchmarks Bush set when he announced his decision to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Iraq. More troops, Bush said, would enable the Iraqis to proceed with provincial elections this year and pass a raft of power-sharing legislation. In addition, he said, the government of President Nouri al-Maliki planned to "take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November."

There is a time and a place and a value to spot reporting, but there is also a time and place for a robust "connect the dots" sort of piece. The Post is to be commended for following up on the "surge" story, working its sources, questioning public comments without getting politically charged and putting together a report that was authoritative to every reader who took the time to read it.

Public Eye is always on the lookout for examples of this Accountability Journalism. If you see one, please pass it along through our mailbox.