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« Al-Zarqawi Dead? | Main | What Is Human? »

Journalism Versus Reality Iraq:

Few of the troops understand that the news business is driven by dramatic events, not the tedious kind of process the troops go through every day to defeat the terrorists. To the troops, the war is being won. They see bad guys killed in large numbers, and few Americans getting hurt (it’s fairly common for their [sic] to be about twenty enemy dead for each American loss). The troops see tangible evidence, every day, of Iraqis having a better life. The troops cannot understand why that is not news, and why journalists always seem to be looking for a negative angle. To the average G.I., the attitude is, “what are these reporters looking for?” They are looking for a story, and bad news is a story. Good news is not. As a result of this clash of cultures, reporters are increasingly seen as a potentially dangerous enemy.

Fortunately for journalists, and contra the fantasies of Eason Jordan, Giuliana Sgrena, and others, journalists are not being deliberately targeted by the US military, but if they were, this would be the reason why.

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 20, 2005 10:41 AM
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When asked if only bad news is news a reporter might respond, 'if a plane lands safely is that news?' That of course is a BS dodge if no planes have landed in several years.

It's time we put these jerks out of business... or better yet, out of the country. Revoke citizenship and put them on the black list. Macarthyism (sp?) is sounding pretty good to me about now.

Yeah, I'm angry.

Posted by ken anthony at November 20, 2005 11:05 AM

I think it's a generational thing, and we'll have to wait for a generation to pass before things change in a big way.

For the present generation of journalists, their heroes are the Cronkites and Woodwards of the '60s and '70s, and it's only human nature to want to emulate them, if only in the nakedly self-interested hope of becoming famous as they did. And to emulate them (even if that emulation is based on a sincere admiration of them) it seems that one must believe that America is still the somewhat screwed-up place it was circa 1970. And so Iraq is not Iraq but is instead Vietnam II, The Sequel.

And because the present generation of journalists is reporting Iraq as Vietnam II and making utter fools of themselves in the process, it is my hope that their successors a generation from now will at least know how NOT to report on a war.

Not that that hope is much comfort now.

Posted by Hale Adams at November 20, 2005 11:43 AM

Unless the nature of journalism changes, sooner or later this country is going to blunder into some catastrophic situation. Citizens, likely in high school civics class, should be taught the difference between "news" and "info-tainment". News should be the unbiased and unvarnished facts of a particular situation, designed to inform citizens what's happening. For all practical purposes, this can be done in a daily 15 minute broadcast or a single page website with links. Info-tainment would be both for those with lives so boring that they enjoy the "reality" soap aspects and for the politically inclined to air their particular slant.

Posted by K at November 20, 2005 02:40 PM

When is the last time you've seen a positive story about the military in Iraq? Even the British servicemen hate the BBC for their slanted reporting. Why would our troops be different?

Posted by Thomas J. Jackson at November 20, 2005 07:02 PM

From the Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer interview with Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

(After a video clip of VP Dick Cheney saying that the insurgency is in its last throes.)

"BLITZER: The vice president said then, months ago, that the insurgency was in its last throes. Was he right?

PACE: I think what you're seeing is, in fact, an insurgency that understands that the elections that took place in January,

[Begin Video Clip where Gen. Pace's head is shrunk into a 2"x2" frame and the screen is dominated by imagery of the latest insurgent attacks]

that the constitution that was written and approved in October, that the elections that are coming up next month represent to the insurgency a real threat.

As the Iraqi people determine for themselves their own free way ahead, the insurgents are in trouble. They know it. And they, therefore, are pulling out all their stops right now trying to attack not only coalition forces, but innocent men and women and children to try to get the Iraqi people to cower under fear."

I just thought that was a completely underhanded way to undermine a salient point being brought up by the general. Anybody trying to hear the Generals response couldn't help but be distracted by the twisted remains of the car used in the bomb attack.

Posted by Josh Reiter at November 21, 2005 06:11 AM

Hale says: For the present generation of journalists, their heroes are the Cronkites and Woodwards of the '60s and '70s, and it's only human nature to want to emulate them, if only in the nakedly self-interested hope of becoming famous as they did.

Good point, though I still think that there is something else there too. These journalists are interested in changing the world (for the better...) and feel they can best make an impact by reporting facets of the news. Of course, ratings are up when its explosions and violence (thanks Hollywood) but the simple fact that our success in Iraq is a slow-moving process that can't really be shown on camera. The combination of these factors, plus what Hale said before pretty much paints the picture of why we get the reporting we do. IMHO of course

Posted by Mac at November 21, 2005 08:35 AM

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