May
01
2003

The Other Side of the Gun

Non-embedded journalists sometimes became targets of U.S. forces

Tareq Ayyoub

The Pentagon has held up its practice of "embedding" journalists with military units as proof of a new media-friendly policy. The treatment of independent journalists, however; was hardly friendly, with sever­al being killed by U.S. forces; on one day alone, April 8, there were three sep­arate incidents of U.S. attacks on non- embedded media. In one incident, a U.S. tank fired an explosive shell at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, where most independent reporters were based. Two journalists, Taras Protsyuk of the British news agency Reuters and Jose Couso of the Spanish TV network Telecino, were killed; three other journalists were injured. […]

May
01
2003

Official Story vs. Eyewitness Account

Some outlets preferred sanitized version of checkpoint killings

When U.S. soldiers on March 31 killed 10 members of one family at a checkpoint outside the Iraqi town of Najaf, U.S. media initially presented the Pentagon's version of events--sometimes in terms that assumed that the Pentagon's word was truth. "What happened there, the van with a number of individuals in it...approached the checkpoint," reported MSNBC's Carl Rochelle (3/31/03). "They were told to stop by the members of the 3rd Infantry Division. They did not stop, warning shots were fired. Still they came on. They fired into the engine of the van. Still it came on, so they began opening […]

May
01
2003

O'Reilly's War

Any rationale—or none—will do

We hope you depend on us for the truth, because we're going to report the situation in Iraq without an agenda or any ideological prejudice. —Bill O'Reilly (O'Reilly Factor, 1/17/03) Not so long ago, Bill O’Reilly had no particular interest in the threat Iraq posed to the world (2/16/01): "You know, I don't take Saddam Hussein all that seriously anymore as far as a world threat. Maybe I'm wrong and naive here. Should we be very frightened of this guy?" If the Bill O'Reilly of today were to meet the Bill O’Reilly of 2001, he'd denounce him as an appeaser, […]

May
01
2003

The Victories That Weren't

In the "war on terror," media slight facts for spin

It shouldn't surprise anyone that bureaucrats and politicians exaggerate their accomplishments; news media exist, in part, to check government claims against reality. But when reporters don't bother to look for answers beyond the press conference, they can turn an official fiction into a documented "fact." Perhaps the most significant embellishment repeated over the past couple of years is that the U.S. government is keeping Americans safe from terrorist attack, as demonstrated by the occasional arrest of suspects in the U.S. and abroad. Each well-publicized sting is accompanied by more declarations of victory from politicos and pundits--declarations that tend to crumble […]

May
01
2003

Dissent, Disloyalty & Double Standards

Kosovo doves denounced Iraq War protest as 'anti-American'

In the following quotes, well-known cable news hosts express anti-war feelings to hawkish guests. Can you guess which quote is “anti-American”? * "Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?” * "We're sending 250,000 of our young men and women to die so that somebody in Washington can prove they're tough. It's not us. We're not the ones that are going to die, they are." For many right-leaning pundits, these seemingly similar expressions of dissent are worlds apart. To them, the […]

May
01
2003

Amplifying Officials, Squelching Dissent

FAIR study finds democracy poorly served by war coverage

Since the invasion of Iraq began in March, official voices have dominated U.S. network newscasts, while opponents of the war have been notably underrepresented, according to a study by FAIR. Starting the day after the bombing of Iraq began on March 19, the three-week study (3/20/03-4/9/03) looked at 1,617 on-camera sources appearing in stories about Iraq on the evening newscasts of six television networks and news channels. The news programs studied were ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Reports, Fox’s Special Report with Brit Hume, and PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. [The study […]

May
01
2003

Brushing Aside the Pentagon's 'Accidents'

U.S. media minimized, sanitized Iraq War's civilian toll

It's no secret that U.S. media outlets--particularly television news shows--did not devote anywhere near the same attention to civilian casualties and suffering in the Iraq war that overseas outlets did. But the nuances of how U.S. media framed war's impact on civilians are worth a closer look. Generally, the problem was not a total blackout of civilian suffering, but that the few stories that appeared tended to minimize and rationalize it. Death and disaster were often discussed as impediments to political strategy, rather than as matters of concern in and of themselves. Overall, reporting served to sanitize the U.S.'s invasion […]

May
01
2003

Where Did All the Weapons Go?

Before the war, media overlooked a key story

If the media seem surprised by the U.S. military's failure, as of this writing, to find any hidden chemical or biological weapons in Iraq, maybe it's because they virtually ignored a critical story that was lost in a flood of stories about the dangers of a chemically armed Saddam Hussein. Weeks before the war began (3/3/03), Newsweek's John Barry published an account of a secret United Nations transcript recording the 1995 interview between U.N. weapons inspectors and Iraq's highest-ranking defector, former weapons chief Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel. For years, the story of Kamel's defection had been used by reporters, pundits […]