Al-Jazeera held a news forum yesterday at which a number of American media members spoke poorly about the U.S. press, while giving high praise for their Arabic counterparts. According to the Guardian Unlimited (hat tip to Drudge): “Arabic-language media have an unprecedented chance to take over as the world's premier news source because trust in their US counterparts plummeted following their ‘shameful coverage’ of the war in Iraq, a conference heard today.”
The article got some great quotes from some of America’s “finest” media representatives: “The US media reached an ‘all-time low’ in failing to reflect public opinion and Americans' desire for trusted information, instead acting as a ‘cheerleader’ for war, said Amy Goodman, the executive producer and host of US TV and radio news show Democracy Now!, at a news forum organised by al-Jazeera.”
Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices Online and research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, joined the parade: “‘I would urge everyone involved with new Arabic media not just to report on this [Arabic] world more fairly and accurately, but to report on the whole world more fairly and accurately. I challenge al-Jazeera and the new Arabic media players to do a better job [than] the US in covering the rest of the world,’ he said.”
Step aside, Mr. Zuckerman, for no one was going to upstage Goodman’s disdain for the American media: “Ms Goodman said in the run-up to the Iraq war a study of NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS newscasts over a fortnight recorded 393 interviews on the conflict, of which only three reported the anti-war movement. ‘This is a media cheerleading for war and does not represent mainstream opinion in the US,’ she added.”
I’m not sure what “fortnight” Goodman examined, but in researching an article for the Free Market Project the past couple of days, I identified numerous reports done prior to the Iraq invasion in March 2003 by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the USA Today referencing anti-war activities here at home and across the globe. Moreover, though not a precise measurement, a LexisNexis search of the term "anti-war" identified several hundred reports done from March 1 through March 17, 2003 by media outlets including CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and NPR.
Regardless, that didn’t deter Goodman from further opining: “Ms Goodman said she believed the policy of embedding reporters with coalition forces was ‘a total failure for independent journalism ... western audiences need to see the other side of the story - from communities and hospitals’.”
Amy suggested that what Americans needed to better understand the war was significantly more gruesome pictures and videos of death and destruction than we’ve been receiving:
“‘If people in the US had a true picture of war - dead babies, women with their legs blown off, dead and dying soldiers - they would say 'no',’ she said.
“‘There is nothing more important than the media - it is more powerful than any bomb or missile and we have to take it back ... we need a media that is independent and honestly showing us the images, the hell, ugliness and brutality of war, not selling us war.’"
The article continued:
“[Christopher] Dickey, the Middle East regional editor and Paris bureau chief at Newsweek magazine, said US media were ‘dying’.
“‘After 25 years as a foreign correspondent I know what the US wants from the rest of the world: to forget about it.’
“‘There's this idea that the US media is controlling the agenda. In fact the US media is dying. Resources, money and staff are being cut back. Twenty years ago Newsweek had 25 staff in Paris, today it has one: me,’ said Mr Dickey.
“He added that the gap between what the US and Arabic media reports was widening. with American reports being ‘all about victory and the Arabic being all about victims’.”
Isn’t that special? Of course, the beauty of this carping is that, in reality, the American media reps at this forum have a point. After all, the U.S. media are dying, and they don't "reflect public opinion and Americans' desire for trusted information." The oh so delicious hypocrisy here is that these reps believe the problem lies in the media not being liberal enough. As such, if the antique press follows this advice, it will only hasten their demise.