NBC's Jane Arraf Admits News Coverage of Iraq Misses Good News, Normalcy of Life

Back in the United States from Baghdad, NBC News correspondent Jane Arraf, who joined NBC last year after eight years with CNN, conceded that life in Iraq “isn't entirely what it seems” from the constant media focus on bombings. In studio with Brian Williams on Friday's NBC Nightly News, she acknowledged how journalists are “really good at getting across the relentless bombing and the violence, but it's really a lot harder for us to portray those spaces in between. I mean, for us, we live in the city. It's as secure as it can be, but we wake up to the sound of car bombs. We feel the mortars sometimes. And in a horrible, inevitable way, it becomes sort of like the weather, and it's kind of the same for Iraqis. Unless they're in the middle of it, life looks amazingly normal."

Williams noted how “we get asked all the time....where's the good news we know is going on there?" Arraf conceded there's “a piece of good news that's out there every day that's really hard for us to get at,” and that's how “there are children walking to school, there are girls and boys, there are Iraqi girls who are walking to school, and it's that wonderful sign of resilience that is the fabric, the background of life there.” But, “to go out and do that story....we'd probably be putting those children in danger because that is the nature of television.”

Video clip (1:35): Real (2.7 MB) or Windows Media (3.1 MB), plus MP3 audio (550 KB)

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down the 90-second segment on the January 19 NBC Nightly News with Jane Arraf sitting next to Brian Williams at the anchor desk:
Brian Williams: "For more on what life is like these days in Iraq, we're joined here in our New York studios tonight by NBC News correspondent Jane Arraf, who reported full time from Iraq for eight years, much of that time for CNN. She was, for several years, the only Western correspondent based in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein.”

Williams to Arraf: “We want to take advantage of your home leave to talk to you about the question you must get all the time: What is life like on the streets there?"
Jane Arraf: "I guess the short answer, Brian, is it isn't entirely what it seems. You know, we're really good at getting across the relentless bombing and the violence, but it's really a lot harder for us to portray those spaces in between. I mean, for us, we live in the city. It's as secure as it can be, but we wake up to the sound of car bombs. We feel the mortars sometimes. And in a horrible, inevitable way, it becomes sort of like the weather, and it's kind of the same for Iraqis. Unless they're in the middle of it, life looks amazingly normal."

Williams: "And we get asked all the time where are the views of normal Iraqi families? And where's the good news we know is going on there?"

Arraf: "I'll tell you what I think is a piece of good news that's out there every day that's really hard for us to get at. And it's a picture I try to keep in my mind when things get really horrible, it is, when you wake up early in the morning, if you can be out on the streets, which we can't anymore, the sun shining, there are children walking to school, there are girls and boys, there are Iraqi girls who are walking to school, and it's that wonderful sign of resilience that is the fabric, the background of life there. Now, to go out and do that story, we would not only be putting ourselves in danger and our local people in danger, we'd probably be putting those children in danger because that is the nature of television. I worked under Saddam Hussein in Saddam's Iraq, and this is harder now than it ever was then."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center