Monday, March 24, 2008

War? What War?

Now here's a nifty headline: "The War Endures, but Where’s the Media?." Good question, and the article that accompanies the headline in today's NY Times suggests some rather disturbing answers.

Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet.

...Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The drop in coverage parallels — and may be explained by — a decline in public interest. Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that more than 50 percent of Americans said they followed events in Iraq “very closely” in the months just before and after the war began, but that slid to an average of 40 percent in 2006, and has been running below 30 percent since last fall.

Experts offer many other explanations for the declining media focus, like the danger and expense in covering Iraq, and shrinking newsroom budgets. In the last year, a flagging economy and the most competitive presidential campaign in memory have diverted attention and resources.
[Emphasis added]

So, there you have it. We don't get much news on the war (wars, actually: remember Afghanistan?) because people aren't interested, it's too dangerous, it's too expensive, and people want to know more about Barack Obama's minister and Hillary Clinton's appointment book.

Some of these reasons aren't too compelling. People aren't interested in the war? I can think of at least 4,000 families who are very interested. Those grieving families aside, however, I think it more probable that the lack of interest isn't propelling the lessened coverage, but the other way around. The lessened coverage is keeping the war out of the public consciousness and is affecting the public debate of such issues as troop withdrawal and the cost of the wars on our economy.

With a more robust coverage of a war in which 150,000 American troops are committed it is entirely possible that the presidential candidates would be forced to talk about such matters as the war itself, the Middle East as a tinder box to which we have contributed mightily, and foreign policy itself in more concrete terms than they are currently.

But it's too dangerous: too many journalists have been killed. Well, yes, covering a war is dangerous. Those who covered World War II and the Viet Nam war will attest to that, but somehow we got the news on a daily (and nightly) basis, and not just from Pentagon hand-outs.

That leaves us with the final and most compelling reason: it's too expensive. Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, put it quite succinctly:

“Danger and the expense are gigantic factors,” Mr. Jones said. “The news media have to constantly revisit how much money and risk to expend.”

And that's what it boils down to: the corporate owner's bottom line. It costs too much money to cover the war. It's no accident that this article was placed in the NY Times Business Section.

That's what this country's vaunted press has been reduced to: a bottom line.

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3 Comments:

Blogger shrimplate said...

Truth is expensive. But even more costly are the lies.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

“Danger and the expense are gigantic factors,” Mr. Jones said. “The news media have to constantly revisit how much money and risk to expend.”



I'm sure you can waste plenty of money in the service of Republican boondoggles.

The risk comes from telling the truth.
~

9:38 PM  
Blogger Mr.Murder said...

It's a semantics issue. People are so tired of having the cavalcade of cheery rose thrown reports shoveled their way. They're tuning out the background chatter. This is a systemic result of the MSM marriage to the beltway corporates.

1:46 AM  

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