Sean's Blog

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Sunday, September 28, 2003

In fairness to many in the media, there are reasons why the good news that should be coming out of Iraq isn't. Via Glenn Reynolds, Here's a detailed explanation by Pamela Hess.

Since returning to Washington, I have been asked multiple times "how Iraq is."

My answer frustrates me as well as the person asking the question. There is no cogent narrative that can sum up the entire country. Iraqis attitudes towards Americans differ based on the Americans they come in contact with; how much they suffered under Saddam's regime; and their level of education and their economic circumstances.

Some of the negative coverage is generated by an older generation of reporters who cut their teeth on the Vietnam war experience. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid said on Thursday the military is largely to blame for that, as the Vietnam situation was "perverted" because "we didn't really tell the truth." Reporters who endured Vietnam -- where what they saw with their own eyes was regularly denied and spun -- are not inclined to believe the military story today.

The Pentagon's decision to "embed" nearly 700 reporters with combat troops went a long way toward dispelling that. The military has cleaned up its act dramatically over the last 30 years, and nearly all the reporters who traveled with them through the latest -- and exceptionally fast war -- saw their professionalism first hand. They reported the good and the bad, but mostly the good.

When combat operations ended May 1, many reporters peeled off and went "unilateral" -- living on their own in Baghdad and elsewhere to cover the reconstruction effort.

This is where the "media problem" for the United States government began. Where they once had hourly dispatches detailing the travails and victories and drama and even heroics of the American military, they now had life in the big city.

I can accept this from this woman, but it doesn't excuse the major media for what they have done. It's their job to report the facts, not their cynical views. It's clear that there are reporters like Christiane Amanpour of CNN who mostly report opinions as fact. She starts out with a idea of how she's going to frame a story and then she finds a fringe element that is eager to validate her version. And it's clear that this sort of thing goes on all the time. Andrew Gilligan of the BBC and Jayson Blair of the New York Times were exposed in their deceit. Many other less dramatic deceptions occur all the time. Reporters lie to readers alarmingly frequently. Yes, I said lie. It's not a mistake or a difference of opinion on what someone meant to say. The deceptions are intentional and, in many cases, done with zeal.

The media needs to do a much better job of policing itself if they want to be credible. I suggest an Internal Affairs division that's financed by a consortium of media outlets. As John Burns most recently put it, there is corruption in the news business and it's time they took responsibility for policing their own ranks.