I read an interesting article at Michael Yon online about the relationship between the giants in the mainstream media and smaller independents who cover the war from the ground in Iraq. Mr. Yon's insights into the way the press covers the war are every bit in tune as his honest assessment of the war as can only be told from his vantage point as an independent journalist on the ground.
Yon notes that the trend of reporting from the front has changed over time. Journalists in the past would have spent long tours with combat forces on the ground. But terrorism and violence against journalists, both intentional and collateral, has shied many into changing the way they cover the war. Mr. Yon is relaying a new pattern of reporting that has emerged where most of the embeds come to Iraq for a quick tour, see just enough to complete their report and then leave. Many of those reports are done from the safer confines in the compound or on bases with some notable exceptions.
This style of reporting gives a certain sense of validity of having originated from the ground in Iraq but lacks the true insights that can only be developed by living the experience of the troops. It is a lingering problem that gives an advantage to the terrorists in the most obvious of ways and has created a sort of distrust between coalition forces and the media that purports to represent their efforts.
Terrorists started this war with killing, and now are suing for peace with more killing, lashing out at schoolyards, marketplaces, and soccer matches, blowing up kids, women, and men on their way to work or worship. All to win the battle for headlines, which they are certain to get; the greater the savagery, the bigger the font.
Our soldiers, meaning the soldiers from countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, yes France, and the United States, are better in all aspects but one: The terrorists somehow manage to beat us all in our respective medias. We may own the air, but terrorists own the airwaves.
Much more perilous is the often toxic nature of relations between journalists and the military, which has been steadily eroding since the start of this war. When it comes to assigning blame for the public’s lack of support for this war, many are quick to point accusingly at journalists, but I cast no blame on any journalist for not being here.
Mr. Yon notes that blogs have added a check and balance that has changed the face of journalism by holding the press more accountable. But there is much work to be done.
The problem with blogs is that they aren't mainstream. The MSM giants dominate the flow of information on a worldwide basis for the most part and blogs can only go so far unless the two embrace one another. This implies that those in the blogosphere should continue to highlight bias as well as reward news sources, informed bloggers and reports that are balanced by pointing them out as well.
Which leads me to the way that Fox news is approaching the issue. Michael Yon is reporting that Fox has agreed to include excerpts of his coverage of the war in their news dispatches. This is a great idea because it allows Yon to maintain his independence while allowing Fox to provide yet another point of view that is not dictated by the editors that run the news rooms. Of course Fox will have control over what dispatches they publish but any such report should be viewed as an independent source of the situation on the ground; one that will inevitably tell stories from a person who spends a crux of his time with both coalition forces and the Iraqi forces that will eventually take over the effort when our job is done.
Fox News is on the cutting edge of this new wave. In the coming months Fox will post excerpts of my latest dispatches that link to the complete versions here. While Fox uses their resources to penetrate the murk here in Iraq, I will maintain independence and the net effect is more readers will see more of the situation on the ground.
Fox News is breaking ground for mainstream media on Iraq coverage. Hopefully other news websites follow.
Unfortunately this also highlights the problem that Democrats have created by caving to pressure from left wing special interest groups in their attempts to silence Fox news. Fox not only carries reports that other news outlets tend to ignore but they also act as a major source of information for the troops who are loathe to read papers like the New York Times that often cast our fighting men and women (i.e. them) in the glow of the lefts anti-military agenda.
Thus the attempt to effectively boycott Fox news also serves to effectively boycott our fighting men and women who put their lives on the line on a daily basis so that politicians may debate and news organizations can report freely.
This sort of bias may not be as glaring as the ones we highlight here on a daily basis but it is a dangerous precedent nonetheless. Nothing helps our enemies more than the one sided perceptions formed in the vacuum of balance. Even if we marginalize the point I am making above by claiming that some news outlets provide this balance we can not ignore the negative impact this boycott has on our troops and the very large percentage of people who rely on Fox for news. This is bias at its very worst and those who support it should know better.
Terry Trippany is the editor at Webloggin