All three major TV networks have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq, so if you want any information about what's going on in the Middle East, you better go seek it out yourself.
The New York Times still delivers compelling coverage -- including blog posts from its Iraqi employees; photos and videos; and a really cool series called Generation Faithful, about what it's like to grow up, go to school, chase girls, etc, in various countries in the Middle East. I also read the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City which inspired me to look up homemade videos on You Tube that show helicopters making spiral descents into Iraqi airports to avoid missiles and mortar fire, or the perilous drive down the deadliest road in Baghdad, plus off-duty soldiers chilling in the pool at "Camp Liberty."
But that coverage is the exception, which is why I was surprised and proud that one newspaper told the life story of my own relative who was killed in Iraq.
I never met Alex Funcheon, but if I have this straight his grandfather and my grandfather were brothers; his dad and my mom are cousins. I'd heard from one of my uncles about how Alex had died last year in Iraq at 21. His parents met President Bush on Air Force One after the death. They kept the details of that meeting mostly secret -- until recently.
Kansas' Wichita Eagle just ran a seven-part series about Alex's death, complete with a powerful video of his mom describing the day soldiers came to tell her Alex had died.
I'm interested in this from a personal perspective, of course. There aren't many of us Funcheons out there -- and he sounds just as mischevious as the rest of us. His sister reminds me of myself. But the political aspect of it managed to challenge my mostly liberal views, at least until the last part of the series became rah-rah-Bush. I've met the man, stared into his beady little eyes and saw only hollowness. Journalistically, I am amazed that, with the pressures on newsrooms today, the reporter was allowed the time -- 18 months -- and the space to work on this story.
The first three parts of the story are here. And the rest have been copied here.
-- Deirdra Funcheon