Taking The Tally To Task

Keeping an accurate tally of deaths related to the war is often a matter of contention because the U.S. military does not officially keep track of the number of Iraqis killed. Recently, an accurate tally of the number of journalists killed in Iraq has become a subject of some dispute as well.

In a piece for the International Herald Tribune on Monday, former CNN executive Eason Jordan wrote that Committee to Protect Journalists' count of 61 journalists killed in Iraq, while the most often cited number on the matter, is way off the mark. He writes that the actual number is 66% higher. Jordan cites the International News Safety Institute's count of 101 as the "actual death toll among news organization employees in Iraq." "…the CPJ tally of 61 is misunderstood and incomplete because it excludes dozens of journalists and news organization employees killed or who otherwise died on assignment in Iraq," wrote Jordan.

In addition to the CPJ's own letter to the editor of the Herald Tribune criticizing Jordan's piece, CJR Daily's Paul McLeary, who recently returned from Iraq, also took former CNN executive Eason Jordan to task for misleading his audience.

McLeary responds to the op-ed by writing that Jordan "didn't perform his due diligence before uttering (or, in this case, writing) an incendiary public statement." CPJ published "a second list of 23 additional 'media workers' who have died since March 2003, which brings its total up to 84," writes McLeary, adding that the organization doesn't include in its count journalists who have died in non-hostile action. In its count, INSI counts deaths from natural causes. "It is disingenuous of Jordan to tout INSI's figure as the true number, while ignoring the fact that different watchdog organizations may have different guidelines," writes McLeary.

Jordan responded today to McLeary's criticisms in a post at CJR Daily's comments section:

… you apparently miss the key point of my op-ed, you take an unwarranted swipe at me, and you erronenously allege that I tried to convince op-ed readers that the CPJ keeps no record of media workers' deaths in Iraq. The key point of my op-ed: that the news media should report the overall media death toll in Iraq, just as the media report the overall military death toll in Iraq. Too often the only Iraq media death toll cited in news reports in the CPJ's tally of 61. Many news consumers believe, wrongly, that the 61 is the whole number of journalist losses in Iraq.
Whether Jordan's statement -- or McLeary's reaction -- was misleading or unwarranted is up for interpretation. Check out the original article here as well as McLeary's piece, and let us know what you think.