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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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October 30, 2003

The Fox News Daily Memo: Is the Fix In?

According to a former news producer there, The Memo is the daily bible at Fox News, and it tells how stories are to be played. It's management. It's politics. It's fear, he says. Fox has already responded with: discredit the source. Next step?

I have argued at PressThink that there is a war—but maybe it’s just a roaring argument—about the terms of legitimacy in broadcast news. Fox is trying to de-legitmate others: CNN, especially, but also ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR. Others are trying to de-legitimate Fox, or would like to see it done. Skirmishes go on almost every day; after all, it is a war of words.

Today (Thursday, Oct. 30) there was significant action along the fault. It can be watched over at Romenesko Letters: This is one of those hmmmm moments when very large and complicated arguments about politics, culture and media—including the you’re biased debate—come down to how you read a document. Before today I did not know it existed: The Memo guiding producers and reporters at Fox News.

10/29/2003 4:46:23 PM
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From CHARLIE REINA: …My advice to the pundits: If you really want to know about bias at Fox, talk to the grunts who work there— the desk assistants, tape editors, writers, researchers and assorted producers who have to deal with it every day. Ask enough of them what goes on, promise them anonymity, and you’ll get the real story.

The fact is, daily life at FNC is all about management politics. I say this having served six years there - as producer of the media criticism show, News Watch, as a writer/producer of specials and (for the last year of my stay) as a newsroom copy editor. Not once in the 20+ years I had worked in broadcast journalism prior to Fox—including lengthy stays at The Associated Press, CBS Radio and ABC/Good Morning America—did I feel any pressure to toe a management line. But at Fox, if my boss wasn’t warning me to “be careful” how I handled the writing of a special about Ronald Reagan (“You know how Roger [Fox News Chairman Ailes] feels about him.”), he was telling me how the environmental special I was to produce should lean (“You can give both sides, but make sure the pro-environmentalists don’t get the last word.”)…

The roots of FNC’s day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel’s daytime programming, The Memo is the bible.

These are selections from the full text of the letter. Some questions I have about the document and its meaning:

If bias is inevitable, is The Memo a legitimate thing? If it’s a legitimate thing, then could it be released, say, on the Fox News site?

If The Memo is not the sort of thing you release, should it perhaps be leaked daily, as one Romensko reader, Don Russell of the Philadelphia Daily News, has already pined for?

Does the memo represent not the normal healthy bias that’s inevitable—a perspective on the news—but undue “spin,” which is insidious and unfair?

But then why shouldn’t there be a memo about perspectives to take seriously, arguments to keep in mind, ways to end things when putting the daily news report together? Is that transparently a bad thing? Or a possibly good thing gone bad? Or always bad?

And suppose you wanted the daily mix of news and commentary at a big network to move in the direction you thought right, (or stay with your direction and not lapse back) would a memo like Fox’s be an effective way to do it? How would you do it without such a device?

When I learned of The Memo, I wondered if others at Fox would say it works as described. I expected that debate to begin soon, and I expected some dispute immediately from Fox. But maybe not. There’s always “yeah, we have such a memo, and you don’t?” which has worked in the past for Roger Ailes.

I was just about to write, “its inconceivable to me that Fox won’t comment. They like a good argument…” when their initial response was posted at Romensko.

Among the many rhetorical options Fox News Channel had in front of it, first choice, it appears, is to discredit the source in standard American source-discrediting fashion. Malcontent couldn’t cut it, now wants revenge. Or as Romensko, a talented headline writer, puts it: Fox News veep says Reina is a “disgruntled” ex-employee.

10/30/2003 5:30:53 PM
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From SHARRI BERG, VP-News Operations, Fox News Channel:
Like any former, disgruntled employee, Charlie Reina has an ax to grind. He was employed at Fox News Channel for six years as the Producer of NewsWatch and of many different specials… During that entire period, we were unaware that anyone at Fox News was holding a metaphorical gun to his head.

Earlier this year, Mr. Reina objected to an adjustment in his assigned duties — duties which he was qualified to perform and paid to do….. One of them said this morning, “Charlie actually NEVER had a job in the newsroom. He worked out of some space up on 17 or 18 reserved for overpaid feature producers on career life support. The ‘grunts’ knew him mainly as one of any number of clueless feature producers who would call the desk at random and ask ‘do we have…’ … In fact, its not editorial policy that pisses off newsroom grunts — its people like Charlie.”

How could Mr. Reina have worked at this company for six years if the picture he paints of life at Fox News is true?

Mr. Reina’s premise about “the memo” is unfounded. People are proud to work here….

These are snippets of the Fox VP’s letter. And there is bound to be more.

If you like tracking press think, then attend closely to which facts—if any—in the Charlie Reina letter are disputed, which are not, how the denials are worded. Equally important is how critics of Fox “read” The Memo, as evidence for… what?

About Reina’s letter: if it’s largely true, and its suggestions are on the mark—and I do not know that—it could not be true just for him. That means others might tell of The Memo and how it works. Romenesko already has a Memos section sitting there like a big soft catcher’s mitt. This one bears watching.

Update: Salon has an interview with Reina today that includes this anecdote:

I came in one morning, and the first thing I saw on the monitor was our anchor doing a story [Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond]. And it was clear that Fox, through the anchor, was anti-Trent Lott. So I went right to the memo, and sure enough the memo said we should make sure our viewers know that this wasn’t even the first time Lott has made such remarks. And I thought, “Wow, I don’t understand.” So I go to the wires, and sure enough, there it is: Bush has condemned what he had said, and Bush wanted to get rid of Lott as the majority leader.

Interesting to me is that Reina agrees that mainstream newsrooms are mostly filled with Democrats and liberals: “Part of what Fox’s message is, and I have to say that to a certain extent I agree with it, is that political correctness is a terrible thing. There are a lot of assumptions that are simply made and not questioned, and a lot of that, liberals like me have perpetrated. And I have to agree that there’s too much of that.” But of course he sees a different form of political correctness operating at Fox.

Events of the last few months are putting increased pressure on Fox’s claim to be both the conservative alternative and not only fair and balanced, but without any definable perspective. Many—including me—marvel at this strategy of playing both sides, which I wrote about in more detail here. But there are costs to keeping these two contradictory claims running.

The Reina letter shows it. For if Fox News Channel had no problem declaring, “we’re the conservative alternative,” then the Memo would be easier to explain. Lots of other attacks would be voided. Roger Ailes could shift from, “we’re fair and balanced, the real news, you’re just liberal spin” to, “sure, we have a perspective and we’re willing to defend it, you have a perspective and you’re not willing to defend it.” Which is stronger?

PressThink’s latest on The Memo (Nov. 1): The Other Bias at Fox News: Volume

Andrew Cline of Rhetorica says: “FOX has every right to spin the news any way its owners and editors please.”

PressThink: Bill O’Reilly and the Paranoid Style in News.

Wall Street Journal, Review and Outlook: “Remember, the people who think this WNET list provides an objective overview of the subject are the same people who can’t keep their brie down when the subject turns to the conservative domination of Fox News or talk radio.”

Los Angeles Times: Av Westin, former ABC news executive, now executive director of the National Television Academy: “Nothing about this surprises me. The uniform smirks and body language that are apparent in Fox’s reports throughout the day reflect an operation that is quite tightly controlled. The fact that young and inexperienced producers acquiesce to that control by pulling stories is further evidence that nonjournalistic forces are at work in that newsroom.

“Roger runs the place with an iron hand and he was put in place there by Murdoch, who selected him for his politics. In that sense, what’s happened at Fox is a carry-over from all Murdoch’s print publications, where the publisher’s politics and editorial preference is reflected in the news hole to an extent that isn’t true anywhere else in American journalism.”

Romenesko’s Letters has new, Saturday material on the Fox memo. Some quite interesting.

Posted by Jay Rosen at October 30, 2003 3:06 PM   Print


Indeed, they may spin the news any way "they" (meaning, I suppose, Ailes) want. The question remains, though, how much is Fox News living up to, or even trying to live up to, its claim to be "fair and balanced."

I think the answer to that is pretty obvious anyway, but it would be nice to see them admitting it in print -- as it would be amusing to see the memos telling, say, CNN staffers to veer as widely to the left as possible. Or CBS's memo to Dan Rather that he inject more rural metaphors into his reports.

Heckfire -- there are lots of memos I'd like to see!

Posted by: teverett at October 30, 2003 8:52 PM | Permalink

Only a fool -- or a well-paid hack like Chris Wallace -- would claim that "Fox" is unbiased. The memo merely confirms what anyone with an ounce of sense who has watched so much as fifteen minutes of "Fox" guessed eons ago.
a fortiori it's proof positive that all the blather about "Liberal bias" was in fact nothing more and nothing less than projection on the part of those reactionaries who will not rest until every shred of news is dictated by the Republican National Committee.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at October 30, 2003 9:18 PM | Permalink

Todd...Jay quotes one line from my entry (and thanks!...always glad to be mentioned). I address the "fair and balanced" motto this way: "I prefer that they be a little more forthcoming about it [their spin, the memo, etc.], but I understand and appreciate the rhetorical effectiveness of "fair and balanced."

I don't consider this motto to be an attempt at an accurate reflection of the normal connotations of those words, i.e. I think FOX uses this motto to establish a new position for the concepts of fairness and balance. I think this motto is clearly a political maneuver.

The question for me, then, is: Will other news outlets allow FOX to define these important terms?

Posted by: acline at October 30, 2003 10:01 PM | Permalink

I'm sorry, Jay but there just is no way that Jim is going to be getting memos rolling in to him. It's a sad fact that leaking is prosecuted more zealously by media outlets than anywhere else. (ironic pause)

Look at the abuse heaped on Charlie Reina and look at the vicious reaction to Bernard Goldberg. Both cases are quite similar. Although at least Fox has the honesty to react on the record, unlike CBS.

I think eventually everyone is going to give up the pretense that one can be completely unbiased or fair. Nearly all outlets started doing this after Adolph Ochs bought the NYT. I wouldn't be sad to see it go, not that blatant bias is a good thing necessarily, but at least it's honest.

It would be wonderful if news orgs would be committed to hiring ideologically and racially diverse staff and trying to keep newsroom political discussions to a minimum.

Posted by: Matthew at October 31, 2003 2:16 AM | Permalink

We'll see about the memos leaking, Matthew.

I don't fully understand why Fox didn't say, "We have a different approach to news. The Memo reminds our people of that. We're building a brand here, and serving a previously neglected audience. That means we need some consistency in across 24 hours. The Memo helps."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at October 31, 2003 2:46 AM | Permalink

Turner actually had a point. It seems to me that the more you read and experience in the world, the more 'liberal' you will appear. The more you shut yourself into a particular group of people you'll listen to as authority, the more you appear conservative. It's just the definition of the respective words, really.

Also, I don't think any news should be going after an audience of one demographic or another. Their time would better be spent going after the news. No wonder I read all my news from a multitude of sources.

Posted by: Eli Sarver at October 31, 2003 11:59 AM | Permalink

"Where was all the outrage when Turner admitted CNN bias? "

You seem to confuse two very different concepts:

1. Conceding one's reporters are generally liberal.

2. Admitting one's reporters allow their political leanings to bias their reporting.

These are not one and the same.

Posted by: Joe Moreno at October 31, 2003 3:33 PM | Permalink

It's possible that "The Memo" is not much different from "The Budget" that is hashed over at daily newsroom meetings around the country.

Posted by: Joey at October 31, 2003 8:01 PM | Permalink

I'd say the more you see and experience, the less liberal you'll become, unless you're so perfectly insulated in your Upper West Side/Santa Monica world. Or you have a good job with the government.
All news outfits have a set of received opinions. Every time a booker gets Patrica Ireland to spout off about women, or Jesse Jackson about black people--and no other "expert" is heard from--that's bias. No producer thinks it's bias, it's just getting the people that "everyone" agrees with. When I worked at PBS here in LA, I was handed a list of 'experts" that were pre-approved by exec. producers.
While many, many times I think FOX is a circus, at least I see and hear a wider variety of commnetators and "experts" than exist in David Westin's Rolodex.

Posted by: Kate at November 1, 2003 10:41 AM | Permalink

I suspect nothing gives Roger Ailes more pleasure than to see serious, print-oriented intellectuals and journalists get bent out of shape trying to come up with the perfect analysis of what’s wrong with Fox News, and what it says about the media and the nation’s intellectual shortcomings in general. It’s a news network conceived and run by a political hack.

On the other hand, what really bothers the thin-skins at Fox is ridicule. And given a chance, they will do the ridiculous, like trying to convince a court to restrain a publisher. To borrow something Jack Shafer said about Tina Brown, “self-parody appears to be a form of self-realization.”

I picked this up from the Center for American Progress’ daily newsletter. You can find Dingell’s entire letter on his web site. Remember, Fox contacted him, then pulled the invitation.

MEDIA - FOX RENEGS INVITE: Fox News reneged an invitation to Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) to appear on their morning show after they realized he was going to be critical of former President Ronald Reagan and his conservative policies. Yesterday, Dingell wrote a letter to CBS head Les Moonves yesterday to join "the Rev. Jerry Falwell , Members of Congress and conservative pundits in demanding that CBS ensure that its upcoming two part mini-series 'The Reagans' is an accurate portrayal of the Reagan legacy." The Congressman went on to share his recollections, citing (among others): "$640 Pentagon toilets seats; ketchup as a vegetable; ...firing striking air traffic controllers; Iran-Contra; ...financing an illegal war in Nicaragua; ...a cozy relationship with Saddam Hussein; ...voodoo economics; record budget deficits; double digit unemployment; ...astrologers in the White House; Star Wars; and influence peddling." When Fox invited him to appear, they had only read the first line of his letter and expected him to be critical of the so-called-liberal media. But when producers read the full letter, they realized Dingell was going to be critical of Reagan, and consequently reneged their offer. 

Posted by: Mark Paul at November 1, 2003 11:06 AM | Permalink

speaking of memos from on high, I wonder if there's a full story behind this and if so when it will come out:
from Sac Bee at , "Bicyclists accuse [ClearChannel] DJs of inciting attacks" : ...They say the morning show hosts at Clear Channel Communications stations in Cleveland, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., also suggested motorists blast horns at cyclists, and speed past them and slam on their brakes in front of them.Clear Channel...won't release transcripts or tapes of the broadcasts...
Clear Channel, which said it was coincidental that similar comments came from three stations, said it told the stations to refer questions to corporate headquarters. It wouldn't say if the disc jockeys were disciplined....
The comments started June 30 on WMJI in Cleveland...Similar remarks came weeks later on WDCG-FM in Raleigh and KLOL-FM in Houston.

Posted by: anna at November 1, 2003 4:23 PM | Permalink

"I'd say the more you see and experience, the less liberal you'll become, unless you're so perfectly insulated in your Upper West Side/Santa Monica world. Or you have a good job with the government. "

I agree in sentiment, but I offer that you may be *perceived* as more liberal.

Posted by: Taran at November 1, 2003 9:08 PM | Permalink

Taran--I work in electronic media and I can't count the nubmer of times that I've disappointed co-workers by not falling into lockstep about welfare reform, the role of government, etc. And what I esp. love is that the surprise they then express when I'm way out in left field about gay marriage, etc. What really gets their collective goats is my rapport with the dispossessed and blue-collar types--gee, can't think why THAT is?

Posted by: Kate at November 2, 2003 1:59 PM | Permalink

Joey writes: "It's possible that "The Memo" is not much different from "The Budget" that is hashed over at daily newsroom meetings around the country."

Exactly. From what I saw of "The Memo" it could be a tout on any daily's budget.

Whatever. Fox News repeating the "fair and balanced" mantra is like Shaggy singing "it wasn't me." You know it's bullsh--, they know it's bullsh--, so what exactly is the great revelation here?

And why are people making a big deal about ideological slant at a cable television news station when the largest and most influential newspaper in this country does the same thing from the opposite side of the political spectrum?

This is all a big, big joke.

Posted by: Nikolas Bonopartis at November 2, 2003 4:30 PM | Permalink

I think FOX News (Cable TV) was misleading in the following incident:

The morning of the big Baghdad hotel bombing last week I happened to be up very early and turned on one of the cable 24-hours news stations (CNBC, I think it was). First reports were coming in, and their report said "Iraqi policemen shot at the bombers' car and kept it from penetrating deeper into the target area." Indeed, the casualties were Iraqi policemen when the car blew up close to them after they stopped it. Later in the day, various other media reported basically the same story, not really mentioning involvement of any US soldiers.

That evening, I was channel surfing looking for the baseball game and briefly came across Fox News at the top of the hour. Their teaser said (and I'm paraphrasing on all these quotes) "American soldiers stop bombers' car before it reaches target." The lead-in for the story itself started with "American soldiers and Iraqi policemen . . ."

It looked to me as if Fox wanted to put a pro-war spin on the story. (Alternatively, of course, perhaps all the other media suppressed the fact that American soldiers helped the Iraqi policemen.)

Posted by: Irv at November 8, 2003 1:06 PM | Permalink

From the Intro