- Jul 31, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
media suffers collateral damage from war
War supporters accuse journalists of undercutting the troops by highlighting problems and ignoring progress in Iraq. War opponents also are unhappy. They say the media failed to question the need for war and sanitize the conflict by refusing to show gruesome scenes of carnage.
"If you believe the liberal media's reporting on the American military effort in Iraq, you're almost forced to be ashamed of America," the Media Research Center, a conservative media-watchdog group, said in a recent message to potential donors.
In return for a donation, the organization will send a specially inscribed military-style dog tag to a soldier in Iraq. "Don't believe the liberal media!" the dog tag says. "I'm just one of millions of Americans who realize that powerful elements in the media are undermining the war effort."
Despite the Media Research Center's harsh criticism of the coverage, Richard Noyes, the organization's research director, expressed uncertainty when he was asked whether it accurately reflects the situation in Iraq.
"If I got my news from the newspapers also, I'd be pretty depressed as well," Powell replied. "Those of us who've actually had a chance to get out and go on patrols and meet the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police and go on patrols with them, we are very satisfied with the way things are going here."
"It's the tension about whether a reporter covering the war is supposed to be a patriot or a cheerleader, or just a reporter," said Daniel Hallin, the author of "The `Uncensored War': The Media and Vietnam," and a communication professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Hallin and other researchers who've studied media coverage of the Vietnam War dispute suggestions that negative news stories turned public opinion against the war. Clarence Wyatt, the author of "Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War" and a professor at Centre College in Danville, Ky., said war support declined almost in direct correlation to the number of casualties and the number of troops deployed.
"News coverage is one element among a whole solar system of elements that shapes how people react to public events," Wyatt said. "It doesn't take a news organization to tell you that your son or daughter or husband or wife has been deployed. It doesn't take a news organization to tell you that the kid who used to deliver your newspaper is now in the local cemetery."
Media experts note that the journalist's job is to report what's happening and why, not to rally support, and that news judgment requires assessing which facts are most important. If schools are being rebuilt, that's a news story, but if the society they're in is being blown apart by civil war, that's a bigger news story.
"If events go well, that's what you report. If things are going poorly, that's the reality," said GWU professor Livingston, who's lectured at the National War College. "If bombs blow up and bombs kill Marines and kill soldiers, that's an important story, and covering that is not bias."
"That's the nature of journalism. And it's the nature of combat," Wyatt said. "To criticize the media for covering combat in wartime is like criticizing the sun for coming up.