Monday, June 05, 2006

Whatever happened to, "If it bleeds, it leads"?

TV Reporters Decry Drop in Iraq Coverage

The amount of time devoted to Iraq on the three television networks' weeknight newscasts has dropped by nearly 60 percent from 2003 to the first four months of 2006, according to the independent Tyndall Report tracking service.
ABC correspondent John Berman in Baghdad wrote in his blog recently that he and his colleagues felt like the castaways on the network's prime-time drama "Lost" — "We have come to the conclusion that no one knows we are here."

Earlier, he wrote: "There is definitely a sense that the public feels like it knows what is going on here, and doesn't want to hear anymore about it."

One NBC veteran expressed frustration at the current verities of the nightly news — the demand for ever more vivid storytelling to help combat audience fatigue, an imperative often thwarted by the relentless violence in Iraq that makes reporting so difficult.

"I think we are all very concerned that the war and Iraq are not getting their due," said Allen Pizzey, who has covered several wars, including Iraq, in 26 years at CBS News.

After the death and injury to his friends this week, Pizzey, who recently rotated out of Baghdad, added, "You think, 'What the hell are we out there for?' "

Network news executives defend their coverage. NBC News President Steve Capus said the network's coverage was "extensive," giving "an accurate depiction of what's going on over there."

Still, he acknowledged that the danger made the broadest reporting from the war zone problematic — as evidenced by the attack that killed the CBS camera crew.

As a result, Capus has ordered his reporters to take a break from most assignments with the military, to give the network time to "pause to reassess" its safety precautions.

Coverage of Iraq has also been a political issue, with President Bush and his top aides accusing the media of driving down public support for the war by reporting only the "bad news."

With a combined 23.5 million viewers on a typical weeknight, the three major broadcast networks draw particular scrutiny.

Media critics across the ideological spectrum also have complained about the coverage, or rather the lack thereof.

"The idea that the Brangelina baby or some salacious trial might trump coverage of the war is just stunning to me," said Cori Dauber, a University of North Carolina researcher who has criticized television coverage from Iraq for its emphasis on violence.

Sean Aday, an assistant professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, reviewed all of the nightly news for NBC and Fox News in 2005 and found that they did not report most U.S. military deaths. Both news outlets also covered an even smaller fraction of violence against Iraqis, he found.

Aday attributed what he called the under-reporting in Iraq to multiple factors, including the danger faced by journalists reporting the story; the fact that random violence typically occurs outside a camera's view; the sense among news executives that continuing attacks were no longer "news"; and, finally, political pressure on the networks.

Aday said that the constant attacks on the media for alleged negative coverage "have got to be in the back of their heads when they make these decisions."

It can't be important. Rita Cosby never seems to mention it. Now where's them missing white wimmin?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

GEE think the corporate fat cats (aka REPUGS) want to quash bad news from Ieaq in the lead up to the election? How come you have to look to page 21 to read that 2 or 4 Americans died in Iraq today?

9:52 AM  

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