Keeping track of news from Iraq

Looking at my Twitter feed today, I realized that I have lost track of what is happening in Iraq. I suspect many other Americans have as well.

The Tweets were alarming: The city of Mosul had fallen to a jihadist movement called ISIS. Tens of thousands of people fled the city, creating a massive traffic jam. U.S.-trained security forces apparently abandoned their posts. I clicked on links to news stories like this one, trying to catch up on the situation.

Many of the articles are written in a way that assumes knowledge of recent developments in Iraq, but I wonder how many readers have been following news from there closely. I haven’t since U.S. troops left in 2011.

Perhaps this a moment for news organizations to step back and provide a bigger picture of the situation in Iraq. When I was wire editor at The News & Observer during the Iraq war and its aftermath, we did that on occasion. A page designer, a news researcher and I used a checklist from the Pentagon to track the U.S.-led effort there.

We put it together as a full-page alternative story form, with a “by the numbers” on casualties and costs of the war. You can see PDFs of these pages here and here. (Thanks to Brooke Cain at the N&O for sharing these files.)

I’ll try to keep a closer eye on Iraq from now on. In doing so, I will look for story approaches that go beyond incremental developments and provide context and nuance.