Last week's Middle East summit meeting in Annapolis was major front-page news in The Sun, which offered significant coverage for much of the week. While serious gains from the daylong talks appeared unlikely even before they began, The Sun's coverage was, in my view, appropriate for two reasons. First, finding a path to peace in the Middle East is vitally important to the stability of not just that region, but the United States and the rest of the world. Secondly, it was a reminder for readers of the importance of world news.
And as it turned out, some substantive news did emerge from the conference: an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to create a democratic Palestinian state that would coexist with Israel by the end of 2008. The Sun's Nov. 28 lead news article by David Nitkin and David Wood also noted that President Bush acknowledged that failure to make progress in talks during the coming months could lead to more bloodshed and violence.
The Nov. 28 edition - with the equivalent of more than three full pages of articles and photographs - culminated four consecutive days of extensive coverage. The newspaper mixed articles about the issues involved in the talks and protests about the conference with stories about the effect on Annapolis itself and the way the worldwide media reported the story.
It is clear that the location of the conference was the driving force behind The Sun's coverage. If the talks had been held in Cleveland or Casablanca, the newspaper would not have given the story the same prominence or used nearly as many of its reporting and photographic resources. But the local aspect of this event gave the newspaper the chance to do some good reporting about important world issues, which in my view was good for readers.
Reader Tony Langbehn said: "I really liked the way The Sun wrote about the human and local aspects of this conference. I think the significant amount of coverage The Sun gave this story made a lot of sense."
This does not mean that every aspect of the newspaper's presentation worked well. In last Sunday's Nov. 25 Page One overview article, the large headline read: "Failure Is Not an Option." The quote marks refer to recent comments made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The jump headline said "Few expect success in Annapolis" - which much better reflected the story. This inconsistency in headlines was awkward and confusing.
The article itself, written by Wood, received positive reader comments.
Said reader James A. Strite Jr.: "Your run-up to the Annapolis meeting is very interesting and well-researched. Look forward to reading more from you as it proceeds."
Another part of the newspaper's Nov. 25 package of stories on the conference was former Sun diplomatic and Middle East correspondent Mark Matthews' Ideas section piece, "Search for Peace." Matthews produced a clear-headed and detailed examination of the recent history of U.S.-sponsored peace talks.
He wrote: "This week's brief gathering on the Chesapeake is haunted by the failures of the past 14 years of disappointment, failure and violence. That merely 'showing up' is once again important shows how far regional attitudes have slid backward from the progress of the early 1990s."
Said reader Cameron Burgess: "Thanks to Mark Matthews for his informative overview of the attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Mideast crisis. The author knows of what he speaks from experience. I've recommended this article to friends as a primer for the conference this week in Annapolis."
Also in the Nov. 25 edition was national correspondent Robert Little's timely article, "Rice's legacy on the line at Annapolis conference." Little talked to a number of experts who expounded on what the talks mean for Rice.
Reader R. Berline said: "This article makes sense to me. Rice seem to be finally trying to step up to the plate on the Middle East issues, but it may be too late for her or President Bush to have any real impact."
Ken Coleman had another point of view: "I think the old saying about leading horses to water is a much more realistic view of Rice's role. Holding her responsible for what the various envoys are able to accomplish is just another transparent criticism of the Bush administration. If these people want peace badly enough, Rice has engineered the opportunity for them to embrace that."
The Sun's Nov. 27 editions offered a number of interesting articles, including Washington bureau reporters Wood and Nitkin's detailed and continually updated (online) story about the talks themselves.
Their work in print and online brought this from reader Graeme Simpson: "I just wanted to say how well written the article today on Annapolis was. I was aware it was happening but thanks to that article written by you both, I now have a much better understanding of what's involved with Annapolis. It was concise and to the point."
Along with Wood and Nitkin's article, the Nov. 28 edition had a variety of supporting stories by reporters from nearly all parts of the newsroom.
Sun photographers also offered readers an excellent array of images.
The Annapolis conference gave The Sun a great opportunity to cover important world news in its own backyard. In my view, the newspaper was very much up to the job, reminding readers of what it can do when it commits to full coverage of a story.