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Syria drifts in and out of the news. Sometimes every media network is intensely interested, if only because a new angle has been found. Excitement in the last couple of months has centred on the issue of chemical weapons: if it’s conventional bombs and bullets ending lives on a large scale, that’s considered less significant.

Maybe if Syria had been less heavily reported on in the early days of the civil war, the gaps in the coverage would not strike me as so obvious, and the bursts of headline appearances not so arbitrary. War weariness on the part of the news consumer is the unfortunate collateral damage. We had the initial frenzied splurge as the uprising gathered pace, when most other world news was elbowed out the way. And now we have a Russia-brokered deal on chemical weapons that won’t really come to anything till well into 2014.

Meanwhile, this is what I’ve just found out – none of it from the TV broadcasters:

  • Several Free Syrian Army brigades have announced an alliance with the Nusra Front (al-Qa-eda’s Syrian branch)
  • According to one source, there are 1200 armed rebel groups, mainly Islamist, operating in Syria
  • The Islamists who claim they are waging holy war are waging it only in Syria – they are not global in their ambitions.

The nuggets of information above were in a Spectator piece by BBC correspondent Paul Wood. His single article has caused me to think about the situation in a way that the countless anchor-to-correspondent conversations on Al-Jazeera, and aimless time-filling interviews with Middle East experts on CNN, simply haven’t.

I’m not making any claims that I’ve read the truest analysis of what’s going on. In any case, even those who are on the ground in Syria cannot know what is really happening, or likely to happen, in the confusion of civil upheaval.

But I will say this: the 24-hour news channels have their place, but for well-researched and considered insight – the best way of getting a rounded picture of events, which is after all what ‘news’ is about – the old technology of a weekly print publication trumps all.

chemical weapons inspectors

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