August 29, 2007

to as few as nine...

From Protein Wisdom:

....I cannot speak for everyone who supports the mission in Iraq, but I would submit that Beauchamp’s apparent fables and embellishments are not a “weak link” to be attacked, but simply an egregious example of the establishment media’s flawed coverage of the conflict. Accordingly, what follows is an over view of the establishment media coverage of the conflict in Iraq.

Though public opinion polls consistently show that Americans consider Iraq to be the most important issue facing the country, establishment media has slashed the resources and time devoted to Iraq. The number of embedded reporters plunged from somewhere between 570 and 750 when the invasion began in March 2003 to as few as nine by October 2006. The result was the rise of what journalists themselves call “hotel journalism” and “journalism by remote control.” Janet Reitman, reporting for Rolling Stone, described the state of the media in early 2004:
When I arrive in Baghdad in April, most American journalists are holed up in their rooms, reporting the war by remote: scanning the wires, working their cell phones, watching broadcasts of Al Jazeera. In many cases, they’ve been reduced to relying on sources available to anyone with an Internet connection… While Arabic and European media such as The Guardian and Le Monde manage to cover the war on the ground, American reporters seldom interview actual Iraqis. Instead, they talk to U.S. officials who are every bit as isolated as they are, or rely on local stringers and fixers, several of whom have been killed while working for Americans. “We live in a bubble,” grumbles one AP reporter. “If we know one percent of what’s going on in Iraq, we’re lucky.”
There are exceptions of course, though the number of establishment embeds shows they are literally exceptions. I do not discount the very real danger to Western journos in Iraq, though independent bloggers like Michael Yon, Bill Roggio, Bill Ardolino, and Michael J. Totten seem to have been able to embed outside Baghdad with nothing like the institutional support available to journalists from the establishment media… and that the number of such bloggers is growing. Moreover, I cannot ignore the consequences of “journalism by remote control.”

Noah D. Oppenheim, who visited Baghdad for MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” noted that “The consequence of this system is that, on television, the story in Iraq is no more than the sum of basic facts, like casualties, crashes, and official pronouncements.” The data back Oppenheim. The television airtime devoted to coverage of Iraq has plunged dramatically. Television networks devoted 4,162 minutes to Iraq in 2003, 3,053 minutes in 2004, 1,534 minutes in 2005 and 1,122 minutes in 2006. The amount of time and space devoted to Iraq coverage has continued to decline through the first half of 2007...

Bad news stories, especially the daily death tolls, consumed an ever-larger share of this dwindling coverage. In 2003, it consumed 38% of the networks’ Iraq newshole. In 2004 and 2005, it consumed 44%. In 2006, it rose to 56%....

One of the ironies of the situation is that the really interesting story is not the terrorist violence, which is repetitive, but the story of a democraic nation struggling to be born amidst frightful difficulties. Reading Michael Yon or the other independent bloggers in Iraq is especially fascinating because they put us in contact with ordinary Iraqis, good and bad.

If anyone who still believes that their TV is giving them the real Iraq is reading this post, read This as an example, one of many...

Posted by John Weidner at August 29, 2007 3:09 PM
Weblog by John Weidner