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June 23, 2008

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And we ought to care. We are responsible for the present state of Iraq, and we ought to care what happens there. Besides, we have men and women risking their lives in Iraq. We owe both Iraqis and our troops more than 181 weekday minutes, for all three networks.

Hit the nail on the head there. That's why I'm grateful for international/Iraqi media that keeps tabs on things. Al-Jazeera English, Aswat al-Iraq, Azzaman, Liveleak for raw footage, and of course all the blogs that still devote coverage to Iraq.

Hey, if the campaign you're backing depends on "low-information voters", you've got to do your best to keep information out of their heads.

Nope, the problem is that America has converted government wholly into a business and journalism wholly into a business.

I've nothing against business, but government and journalism and a few other entities are not businesses.

Not much matters any longer.

Thanks, ideologues.

Nope, the problem is that America has converted government wholly into a business and journalism wholly into a business.

I've nothing against business, but government and journalism and a few other entities are not businesses.

Not much matters any longer.

Thanks, ideologues.

John Dewey said it once, I think...

"The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest."

I don't think I even need to say that the situation in Iraq definitely falls under the heading of public-interest issues. Do your jobs!

You're right about this, but one factor in the lack of Iraq coverage that you didn't touch on is how heavy media competition is right now. Everyone watches TV with their thumb hovering over the remote. CNN knows that a long, deep Iraq story is going to drive a lot of their viewers to Fox, and vice versa. Cultivating public opinion on an issue requires catching people's attention, and none of the networks want to take the risk that requires.

I used to work at a mainstream web portal, and the greatest indicator of whether we would chase a particular issue or event was how many clicks the story got in the first 30 minutes. Anything (seriously, anything) with the words 'Paris' and 'Hilton' in that order would get about 500,000 clicks in the first half-hour. Iraq stories were lucky to get 10,000. I remember a story about EU politics that got 50 clicks in an hour. You can guess how long that stayed on the front page.

Would I have liked to run more stories that actually served the public? Of course I would. But at 3.30 pm, it comes down to hitting your numbers for the day. So you don't get in trouble, so your boss doesn't get in trouble, so his boss, etc.

Short of embedding Paris Hilton in the 31st regiment, I genuinely can't think of a feasible way of resurrecting interest on this without a wholesale, instant media maturation.

The war in Iraq has a lot more intrinsic interest than the death of Anna Nicole Smith, the vagaries of Paris Hilton, or any of the other completely inane stories that the networks somehow manage to find time for.

Are you sure you aren't confusing network news with cable news? According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, each of the major networks devoted 1% of their coverage to "Celebrity/Entertainment" during 2007. For comparison, the 51 minutes that CBS devoted to Iraq this year is about 2% of total coverage.

Ezra Klein had a pretty depressing post breaking down international news coverage.

link

“181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes…”

I suspect that this has far more to do with the Democratic Party failing to make good on their 2006 campaign promises than it does with apathy towards the war. I bet that if the number of minutes was included for the fall of 2006 before the elections, the number would be higher than 1,157 minutes.

In 2008, the news is two parts revenue generation and one part Democratic Party cheerleader. If Obama becomes the President, the Iraq War will become silent.

It does seem strange, since according to the Bush administration, we are finally "winning" in Iraq. One would think that the airwaves would be full of stories about reopening schools, children at amusement parks, and the Iraqi government buckling down to the task of governing their US-supplied democracy. Could it be that reports of our "victory" are just a tad exaggerated?

I take it you've all seen Lara Logan on the Daily Show last week? She talked in-depth about her frustrations getting stories out of Iraq -- and her distaste at what does come out. The quote from the interview that kills is "If I were to watch the news you hear in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would just drive me nuts".

And that's from the Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News.

"One would think that the airwaves would be full of stories about reopening schools, children at amusement parks, and the Iraqi government buckling down to the task of governing their US-supplied democracy."

"If it bleeds, it leads."; The corollary is pretty obvious, I would think. But don't worry, I fully expect the coverage to improve the moment Obama is elected, and good news from Iraq is no longer a threat to Democrats' election prospects.

US road-side bomb deaths were down 88% in May from the year before. Let's hope it stays that way.

Of course that's because we hired the bombers but it just gives us a better reason and chance to get while the getting is good. Because the Iraqis surely do not want us there.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2008-06-22-ieds_N.htm

It does seem strange, since according to the Bush administration, we are finally "winning" in Iraq.

For Bush, that means he has temporarily raised his grade point average from an F to a C-, which is "winning" from his point of view. We will see over the next year whether it will sink back to an F based on Iraqi provincial, national and Kirkuk elections (if they have them, which I guess would mean an F).

Ratings rule the networks, period. It's all about cash, numbers, demographics and eyes on the tube.

But don't worry, I fully expect the coverage to improve the moment Obama is elected, and good news from Iraq is no longer a threat to Democrats' election prospects.

Dude, the current lack of coverage is the good news. And after Obama is elected, you'll be cheering the bad Iraq news with the tagline that Obama screwed it up. Right? News is all abot glorifying right wing talking points, right?

Ratings rule the networks, period.

Since the goal is to attract the large audience, the target audience is that subset of people who watch lots of television. That means pitch to the vidiots.

BOB says it's a Democratic plot, and after Obama's elected we'll hear less.

Brett says it's a Democratic plot, and after Obama's elected we'll hear more.

Clearly, Democratic propagandists and big media plotters need to get their story straight. :)

IMO the shortfall of Iraq coverage is not very hard to understand.

We've been there for over five years. For the last, what, three of those years, nothing much has changed. Things get a little better, or a little worse, but that's all.

There isn't going to be a decisive victory there. Neither is there going to be a dramatic, disastrous failure. It's going to be the same sorry mess it is now, with minor tweaks, for as far forward as anyone can see.

Plus, all of the reasons folks were given for why we needed to be there have kind of turned out to be false. The place is a mess, and it's kind of our fault.

Who wants to hear that?

Yes, we should all care, a lot, because Iraq is now our broken Pottery Barn end table, and we are going to pay, and pay, and pay for it. Not all in one big lump, and not all right away. It'll drag out for decades.

But because it will drag out for decades, and because it's not very exciting any more, and because we screwed up and nobody wants to think about it, it won't be on TV.

It's not entertaining any more. People have other, apparently more pressing things to worry about.

Even the people I know who have loved ones there just aren't that interested. They worry, a lot, about their loved ones, but they aren't that interested in Iraq per se anymore. They just want their loved ones to be able to, finally, come home.

Not with a bang, not even with a whimper. IMO it's not going to end at all, we'll likely be there for years. Even if Obama wins, and does his best to wrap it up, it kind of has a logic and a momentum of its own at this point. There's only so much he can do.

We'll be there for years. Everyone knows it, everyone is sick of it, and nobody wants to think about it. Certainly, nobody wants to watch it on the TV or listen to it on the radio. It's just going to be a dull grind in the back of our minds, like The Bomb was back in the cold war days.

Thanks -

Something I've been wondering, since this was before my time:

In 1973-1974, was it reasonable or unreasonable to think we could get out of Vietnam soon? I mean, did it seem (to you, or to "people" in general) like we'd be there for another 10 years, or what?

It's not hard to see what I hope the answer is, but I'm also just curious.

Hob: we were out in 1973, so by 1974 it was definitely reasonable to think we could be. (Actuality implies possibility, etc.)

My dim memory is that by sometime around 1968, it had become pretty clear that we were not going to "win", whatever that meant, and that all that was going on was trying to arrange our withdrawal so that it wouldn't involve a loss of prestige, or face, or something. A hell of a reason for so many people to die.

In 1968, I was a kid, and I thought: why isn't this just like the sort of situation I encounter in my life, in which I say or do something stupid, without particularly thinking about the consequences, and then find myself painted into a corner, in which I have to go on doing the stupid thing or else just fess up and admit error? I was quite clear that whatever I might or might not do, being stubborn and so forth, fessing up was the right thing to do. Why, I wondered, wasn't it the same with regard to Vietnam?

I mean, of course if staying there would have actually helped, that would have been different. But I couldn't see that it would.

Don't forget that Nixon won in 1968 in part because he said he had a plan for peace. Ha ha ha. But it's true: LBJ was the candidate of endless war; Humphrey -- well, who knew? He had turned into a potted plant by then. But Nixon at least said he had an alternative.

MNPundit: Of course that's because we hired the bombers but it just gives us a better reason and chance to get while the getting is good. Because the Iraqis surely do not want us there.

That's right.

So's Russell, of course.

that it wouldn't involve a loss of prestige, or face, or something

Peace with honor, hilzoy. Honor. And if you can't tell the difference between that and "prestige, or face, or something", why, you're exactly the kind of Commie fag junkie who cost us the war.

In 1973-1974, was it reasonable or unreasonable to think we could get out of Vietnam soon?

The Paris Peace Accord was signed in January of '73. At that point, we (the US) was basically out of the war, although we still had lots of guys in country. The draft was still in place, but no new guys were being sent over (I turned 18 in '74, and my draft status, like that of most guys my age, was "1-H", essentially an "on hold" status).

The war itself did not end. The North took advantage of the end of US bombing to rebuild infrastructure, and took advantage of the relative weakness of the ARVN to invade and hold increasingly large areas of the South until they took Saigon in '75.

There was some desire on the part of the Nixon administration to respond to increased aggression from the North with a resumption of the air campaign, but that was ruled out by Congress.

I'm not sure what the expectation was for a long-term US presence in Vietnam at the time the Peace Accord was signed. As it became clear over the following year or so that the North would prevail, it also became clear that we would be clearing out.

Not sure where you're going with your final comment, but for the record I don't think the situations in Vietnam and Iraq are analogous.

Thanks -

Whether the public cares or not is irrelevant. The news divisions at the networks are required by law to serve the public interest, not the public entertainment. That means keeping the public informed on matters of national importance.

LT Nixon: That's why I'm grateful for international/Iraqi media that keeps tabs on things.

Or, you know – active military folks with their boots on the ground there taking the time to blog daily for the rest of us peons…

;)

Yes you – thank you and those like you.

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