March 24, 2008
By Christa Westerberg
Last week, we hit the five-year anniversary for the war in Iraq. Remember where you were when the war started? I do--driving in a rental car to a conference in Oregon. My car companions and I listened to President Bush's press conference announcing the start of formal hostilities on the radio. We couldn't believe the war had actually begun (wasn't there still time for those battleships in the Gulf to turn around and go home?), but also couldn't believe the softball questions the President was getting from the press corps.
And today, the AP reports we have reached another horrible milestone: 4,000 U.S. troops dead. Would the outcome have been the same if the press had done its job in reporting on the justification for the war? Or de-bunking the link between Saddam Hussien and Osama bin Laden? Hard to say, but NPR's "On the Media" did a fascinating show this weekend analyzing the media coverage in the five years since the war started.
It's worth a listen--for example, remember "embedded journalists?" NPR asks whether the "embed experiement" worked. I won't give away the answer, but suffice it to say, it is not a resounding "Yes!" from the media's perspective.
Where is the media now? Absent, says a recent Project for Excellence in Journalism survey. The war only got 3 percent of TV, newspaper, and internet stories in the first ten weeks of 2008, as opposed to 23 percent for the same period in 2007. And on the cable news networks, the war was covered 24 percent of the time last year, compared to a miniscule 1 percent--yes, 1 percent--this year.
But hey, this frees us up to discuss Hillary Clinton's hair and Barack Obama's dog walker for the next five months. You know, the really important stuff.
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