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News Coverage of Iraq. How Fair Is Your Deal?

 
 
PDiddie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Apr, 2003 06:41 pm
Quote:
For the first time since US forces invaded Iraq a month ago today, the war is no longer the top-drawer item on the cable news networks or their websites. And what has displaced it? Juicy breaking news about Laci Peterson, the pregnant California woman who disappeared around Christmas. Now begins the lemming-run to get the scoop on the murdered mom; Ashleigh Banfield of MSNBC is probably in a catfight with an airline ticketing attendant as we speak.

There's a perfectly reasonable question in all this that no one is asking. Who cares who killed Laci Peterson?

I'm glad you asked, and here's the answer.

Naked pictures of Laci Peterson!

There. Once this post has had time to cycle through Google's search engine, I guarantee you that this one line will draw more page-viewers than Google searches pertaining to all my war items from the past few days combined. No wonder so many journalists have contempt for the public, and no wonder so much of the public has contempt for journalists.

The segue from war to Laci may be altogether predictable--what other sort of story, besides another stateside terrorist attack, could have displaced Iraq in the networks' firmament of Really Big News?--but it's telling all the same. During the media ramp-up to the Iraq invasion, remember, the news channel drumbeat was really only interrupted by another story once; and that was the return of Elizabeth Smart.

You can say a lot of things about the behavior of the news networks, but you can't say it isn't consistent. From OJ to Susan Smith to Monica to Chandra to the war and Laci Peterson, "the news" is just a struggling species of reality TV now. The stories with legs are the ones that offer up ongoing and easily digested morality plays, preferably bloody ones with colorful villains. Best of all, the news networks are not hampered by the stricture that still afflicts broadcast-TV reality programming: Thou shalt not kill the contestants. The American cable networks are the Brothers Grimm of our age.


Cable networks turn from the War in the Gulf to the Body in the Bay
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frolic
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Apr, 2003 04:10 am
i saw an interesting discussion on CNBC TV about CNN. In the background you saw some big screens with "CNN, The Cover-up News Network."
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Apr, 2003 01:17 am
I still want to know what this achieved, besides the murder of several thousand innocent people.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Apr, 2003 06:23 am
I posted this link elsewhere, but it really ought to go here too... a lovely piece on the 'neocon' boys and girls, who's funding them, and what media they influence and own... http://www.nyobserver.com/pages/frontpage6.asp
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Apr, 2003 09:41 pm
Extraordinary link, blatham.

We must never forget that the press and TV make 2 out of 5 powers.
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Apr, 2003 10:56 am
The talking headshttp://a799.g.akamai.net/3/799/388/dbc13291675a02/www.msnbc.com/comics/images/chat_sub.gif
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Apr, 2003 11:55 am
Hey, au, the guy on the left looks like me! Wink c.i.
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Flatted 5th
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2003 10:23 am
This is a post war article written by Reese Erlich - a freelance reporter with extensive experience in war reporting.
Quote:
From the Oregonian:
The embedded in Iraq: stenography for the Pentagon

04/20/03

REESE ERLICH

P undits and media poo-bahs are busy congratulating themselves for doing a wonderful job covering the Iraq war. After some initial suspicion, the Pentagon and media leaders now agree embedding reporters with soldiers was a significant step for press freedom, and the gushing 24/7 media coverage means Americans are better informed.

I beg to disagree. I'm a foreign correspondent with more than 20 years experience reporting from dozens of countries, including Iraq.

In my opinion, most of the mainstream media coverage of Iraq consists of stenography for the Pentagon -- not the balanced and accurate reporting necessary in a democracy. And the information coming out of the White House, reported without much skepticism by the press corps, won't prepare Americans for postwar realities.

We've benefited from some excellent and courageous reporting, particularly from reporters in the field and in Baghdad. In some sense, we lived with them through the sandstorms and firefights, and were reminded of the hell that is war.

But many of the embedded reporters also came to consider the troops their friends and protectors. They relied on them, in some cases, as their only information source. Too many reporters came to see themselves as latter-day Larrys of Arabia, wearing military-issue camouflage and combat boots.

While this has been the most extensively covered war in history, we ended up with a less-accurate picture of reality. For one thing, the U.S. media relied way too much on the veracity of official sources. The uprising that wasn't Remember, for example, the "Basra uprising" in which U.S. and British military officers claimed the Shiites of southern Iraq had risen up against Saddam Hussein? The March 26 USA Today wrote "significant numbers of Iraqi civilians took to the streets." The article quotes a British officer saying his troops were ready to capitalize on the revolt. Similar stories of a Basra uprising appeared throughout the U.S. media.

There was only one problem. There was no uprising. Reporters from al-Jazeera TV, who were inside Basra, had footage of a calm city still under government control at the time. Similar optimistic reports that the Basra garrison had defected to the British also proved false.

Embedded journalists occasionally did file unique reports. After the March 31 incident near Najaf when U.S. troops killed at least seven women and children in a civilian van, an embedded journalist from The Washington Post reported from the scene that some soldiers said they didn't fire warning shots -- as claimed by the Pentagon. But the story died without any further follow-up by other media.

From countless conversations with journalists over the years, I know most self-censor their stories. If former military officers or top-ranking Democrats offer criticisms of the war, reporters in the field are emboldened to offer a more-skeptical view of the Pentagon. But when the war appears to be going well, such skepticism -- no matter how justified -- ceases. Doing otherwise risks accusations of America bashing and lack of patriotism.

Former NBC correspondent Peter Arnett learned that lesson the hard way. On March 30 he told Iraqi TV, "The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan. Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces."

Other reporters were making similar remarks on TV and radio talk shows in the United States. NBC said it fired Arnett for expressing his personal opinions on Iraqi TV because reporters are supposed to present the facts.

Ironically, on the same day Arnett was fired, Fox News reporter Greg Kelly, told The New York Times, "We absolutely want our unit to be successful," referring to the Second Brigade with whom he was embedded. "Are we emotionally invested? We are. We know these people."

Kelly was certainly expressing an opinion about the war, not just reporting the facts. Yet I haven't heard a single call for his dismissal.

Reporters know there are no consequences for expressing pro-war opinions or even misreporting information about the Iraqi government. But even accurate information critical of the Bush administration can be dangerous to your health.

The White House has long attacked Arabic language TV network al-Jazeera for anti-U.S. reporting. On April 8, a U.S. missile hit the al-Jazeera office in Baghdad, killing one correspondent and seriously wounding a camera person. Al-Jazeera, whose office was destroyed by a U.S. missile in Kabul during the Afghanistan war, gave the U.S. military its precise Baghdad coordinates to avoid a similar incident.

Four hours later, a U.S. tank fired on the Palestine Hotel, where hundreds of foreign reporters are staying. The Pentagon initially claimed U.S. troops came under sniper fire from the lobby. But the Pentagon was unable to explain why a tank then fired a round into the 15th floor, killing two journalists and wounding several others.

Reporters in the hotel saw absolutely no gunfire coming from the hotel, which is confirmed by a French TV videotape running for four minutes before the U.S. attack. Dissuading the media? Certainly in the chaos of war, soldiers make mistakes. But given the strong Pentagon opposition to reporters staying in Baghdad without official U.S. sanction, journalists in the field remain suspicious. Amnesty International asks, "Was the point to dissuade the media from covering the Battle of Baghdad?"

In the coming days, we're likely to see more pictures of angry looters, uncomfortable Marines escorting Iraqi police on their rounds and U.S.-orchestrated meetings aimed at setting up a fledgling government.

But will the media also show the war's devastation to civilians? Will it accurately report on how the United States can bring stability to Iraq without occupying it for years to come?

Stay tuned. Freelance foreign correspondent Reese Erlich reported from Iraq last year for the San Francisco Chronicle, Common Ground Radio and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio. He's also reported from Afghanistan, Lebanon and Grenada and is co-author, along with Norman Solomon, of "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You," Context Books, 2003.
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Tartarin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2003 10:40 am
That NYObserver article, Blatham, is a real sinker, isn't it! I keep noticing the patriarchal nature of the movement and how, yes, the culture was prepared for it. Too damn many wimmin, flits, art stuff, gun control, international consensus (which has always been leery of Israel), and a general "softening" of the American character. Thank god we're back to guns. To hell with butter.
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Diane
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2003 11:22 am
Flatted 5th, excellent link. The attacks on Al Jazeerah and the Palestine Hotel were numbing reminders of how far this administration will go to monopolize the press.

Blatham, I've also read articles about the intermarrying among the neocons. It is becoming more like a royal dynasty everyday.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2003 11:54 am
incest, the sport the whole family can enjoy
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Diane
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2003 12:00 pm
Yep, Dys, in so many ugly ways.
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2003 03:10 pm
Denis Boyles: The EuroPress goes through the trash.

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-boyles042803.asp
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 05:46 pm
Hh - I posted this on a Roundtable thread but I should really just 'archive' it here, I guess:

This post is about something that struck me when I was just navigating the CNN site. If I go to cnn.com, the site automatically detects where I'm from and forwards me on to the CNN International site, which targets overseas browsers. But I wanted to know what news Americans saw today, because I was interested whether the Balkenende visit (thats our PM) made any blip on the radar whatsoever. So I clicked back on to CNN USA. I was surprised by the sheer difference in the first impression the front pages of these two sites made.

CNN International:

Single big headline, including photo:
"Iraq U.S. draft 'falls short'"

Goes with the text:

Quote:
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the U.S. draft resolution on Iraq does not go far enough.

The U.N. resolution is aimed at getting more countries to contribute troops and money to stabilize and rebuild the country.


And goes with a list of 7 further Iraq-related headlines, including:

Quote:
Iraq troops under review
• Text of U.S. draft resolution
• Rumsfeld: No more U.S. troops needed
• Sources: Pentagon rushed postwar plan


Separate headlines include:

Quote:
Blair avoids Iraq WMD questions | WMD in Iraq


OK, now compare:
the US CNN site.

The big headline, with picture, here is:

FBI concerned power grid could be target

Goes with the text:

Quote:
While there is no evidence of terrorism or criminal hacking in last month's power blackout in the Northeast, the FBI is concerned that vulnerabilities in the power grid could be exploited, the agency's top counterterrorism official told a House committee investigating the power outage.


There are no other Iraq-related headlines on the front page here. Oh yes there is, just the one:

Quote:
Rumsfeld wants Iraqis to play bigger security role


---

Now most people dont tune in to more news than what would appear on the CNN front page. Just imagine the utter difference in experience / perception of the Iraq war and the 'successes' of US diplomacy Europeans and Americans get. Even just taking this one example, you see the whole list of commonplace observations: the American news features a less prominent role to "Iraq", period (strange enough, considering its mostly their soldiers fighting and dying there); less attention to the role of the UN; much less attention to criticisms & scepticism from allies; less reporting on critical sources; and instead a 'reassuring' government statement as main headline.

And the above is just two editions of the same medium. "Native" European media are even more outrightly different from your average US media reporting. In Holland, high-brow broadsheet NRC Handelsblad today headlines its "analysis" to the news item "Number of troops in Iraq has to increase" (re: comments by Hoon and Rumsfeld) with: "US with hanging paws [=tail between its legs] back to UN". The left-leaning Volkskrant headlines its "analysis" to the news story "Bush sees role for UN in Iraq" as: "Bush counts his buttons [=decides] and goes through his knees [=gives in]". The main Iraq-related headline on the homepage of the Amsterdam paper, Het Parool, is: "Europe with its back to the US", with a second headline proclaiming, "US grant UN main role in Iraq". And this is just Holland - one of the countries that has soldiers out working with the Americans in Iraq, and in which a (narrow) plurality in the polls actually consider the war to have been justified. Imagine the French or German papers!
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 07:37 pm
[double post]
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 07:39 pm
the CNN USA homepage has been updated, and now features the headline, "New warning of attacks", with this image of globe, American flag, and the USA a targeted military aim:

http://i.cnn.net/cnn/2003/images/09/04/top.global.terror.2.jpg

The International edition, meanwhile, still carries the headline "Iraq U.S. draft 'falls short'", with a picture of Schroeder and Chirac.

I'm actually a bit puzzled about this example (of the CNN pages, I mean). I mean, that newspapers from different countries would work from wholly different frames of reference and thus will emphasize different things, is still merely natural, for all the talk of objectivity. But here we are talking of one and the same medium, with the same bosses.

Are the different editorial boards so separate? Or are we talking more of a keenly devised target-group-specific business approach?

Catering the priority of topics to the immediate relevancy to the divergent audiences (think, for example, a focus on local news), is still only logical. But when does the news, in this way, start to tell a wholly different story, about the war in this case, altogether? From what motivation - 'tell them what they wanna hear - its good for ratings and ad revenues'? But what has that still got to do with a sincere endeavour to uncover 'truth'? State media are a journalistic nightmare, it's true, but the various pressures of the market, it seems, imply their own forms of (voluntary) censorship.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 07:46 pm
nimh, The target s/b Wn DC, where the war mongers are.
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Tartarin
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 07:47 pm
Nimh: You're laying out the reason so many of us check a variety of international sources, not relying entirely on US reports. The "different story" has been going on for some time... To be honest, I think it's the cause of some of the spats within A2K, the dividing line between those who read multiple sources of news including non-domestic sources, and those who rely entirely on domestic sources and tend to discredit international news organizations.

Compare also the NYTimes and the International Herald Tribune.

By the way, a talking head on a good news analysis Public Radio show here just said there is a serious rift now between the civilians and the brass in the Pentagon. The brass knew we were running over budget. The civilian leadership didn't want to know.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2003 06:23 pm
For those of you near the border to canada...
CTV is tonight broadcasting a documentary film shot by one of Pierre Trudeau's sons who went to Bagdhad several weeks prior to war and then filmed the live of a family there through the period of the war and following.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2003 07:12 pm
blatham, For those of us south of the border, how about a synopsis on the film?
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