Mar 26, 2006

If it bleeds, it leads

Last week, Bush and Mr. Go Fuck Yourself criticized the media for underreporting the "good stories" that come out of Iraq, and that the media should do a better job about providing a fair balance.

CBS Journalist and Naomi Watts look-alike Lara Logan addressed this charge on CNN today, saying:
KURTZ: But critics would say, well, no wonder people back home think things are falling apart because we get this steady drumbeat of negativity from the correspondents there.

LOGAN: Well, who says things aren't falling apart in Iraq? I mean, what you didn't see on your screens this week was all the unidentified bodies that have been turning up, all the allegations here of militias that are really controlling the security forces.

What about all the American soldiers that died this week that you didn't see on our screens? I mean, we've reported on reconstruction stories over and over again…I mean, I really resent the fact that people say that we're not reflecting the true picture here. That's totally unfair and it's really unfounded.

...Our own editors back in New York are asking us the same things. They read the same comments. You know, are there positive stories? Can't you find them? You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the State Department and the embassy and asked them over and over again, let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are going on? Oh, sorry, we can't take to you that school project, because if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked about, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack.

'Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage. And the last time we had journalists down here, the plant was attacked. I mean, security dominates every single thing that happens in this country….So how it is that security issues should not then dominate the media coverage coming out of here?'
I agree that in order to remove any sort of bias on the aggregate level, there needs to be a balance of reporting the good and bad stories. But what if there are more bad stories coming out of Iraq than good? If American soldiers are dying in Iraq, if a large number of Iraqis are systematically tortured and killed by insurgents (like this weekend, for example), well, guess what, people. That's NEWS.

Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, explains it this way:
But I think what the administration is trying to say is, it's not just whether you're reporting on the casualties -- they're there, sure -- but we're trying to make a case that these deaths are meaningful, that there is a good reason for doing what we are and for people paying the ultimate sacrifice, and the media isn't communicating that.

So basically, the Bush administration is asking that the media rationalize Iraq War casualties.

The administration's attempt to become editor-in-chief of every single media outlet is preposterous: Media's job is to serve as a check on government - not provide assistance in internalizing and disemminating the government's agenda. When that happens, that's called propaganda, not journalism. (Are you listening, FOX News?) To blame the media for helping lower public approval of the war is off base: As casualties increase, public opinion decreases. And although the media informs people about casualties, you can't deny that people are dying. Sure, it would be nice to see feel-good stories of a soldier receiving a medal for something he did, or a school being built in an Iraqi city destroyed by war. But as long as people are dying over there, not one positive story is going to make me feel better about this war, no way.

(Props to Peter Daou, who got me all riled up.)

UPDATE: Steve Young at the HuffPo adds to the discussion and brings up a great point about Michael Moore.

No comments: