Sunday, October 12, 2008

What if they held a war, and nobody reported it?

The US still has upwards of 155,000 troops in Iraq; it is spending $10 billion a month in the country. Yet, for the US news media, the pull-out from Baghdad is already well underway. WaPo reports:
Of the dozen U.S. newspapers and newspaper chains that maintained full-time bureaus in Baghdad in the early years of the war, only four are still permanently staffed by foreign correspondents. CBS and NBC no longer keep a correspondent in Baghdad year-round.

The three dailies published 858 front-page stories with Iraq datelines in 2003, 379 last year and just 138 during the first nine months of 2008. . .

The three networks aired 130 stories with Iraq datelines on the evening news between September 2007 and September 2008, compared with 242 during the previous 12 months. . .
Apparently, the army is still not allowing many "embedded" journalists access to militarily active areas. Another reason cited for the decline in Iraq coverage is that much is going on elsewhere. The WaPo article says stories are shifting to "mundane" subjects like the Iraqi people taking responsibility for rebuilding. A NY Times bureau chief is quoted as saying: ". . . what's in front of us now is almost a static situation. There's not a clear narrative line. The stories are more complex."

It has to be said of the past six years that more US media coverage of Iraq has not always been equated with better coverage. Does it really matter if you have 100 US correspondents reporting out of the Green Zone, or only ten? It probably makes little difference. I also doubt that the situation in Iraq is any more "complex" today than it ever was. If the media was able to follow a simpler story line concerning Iraq in the past, this undoubtedly says something about the US media. But it surely cannot be a statement about Iraq.

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