Panel Agrees No Middle Ground in Iraq Coverage: Either Too Positive or Too Negative
U.S. media coverage of Iraq is too polarized between "good news" and "bad news" and all sides are missing out on a complete picture, participants in a panel discussion organized by Reuters said on Wednesday.
That was one of the few points of agreement between journalists, a professional blogger and a U.S. military spokesman gathered in New York to discuss media in Iraq.
"If you write a 'good news' story from Iraq you are immediately identified as an apologist for the administration ... and if you write something critical then you're in the other camp," said Roger Cohen, a columnist for the International Herald Tribune who was recently in Iraq.
Cohen said both traditional U.S. media and Internet journals, or blogs, tended to fall into the trap of following a certain line. "Most of the time you read the first paragraph, you look at the byline and you know exactly where it's going."
"Everybody goes to the blog they like to reinforce the view that they already have," he said. "Despite the good and bad news stories, very few people change positions."
The military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, says the problem is that there is simply not enough coverage of Iraq:
"I was of the opinion that there wasn't enough good news coming out of Iraq when I first got there," he said. "I came to realize it really isn't the issue of good news versus bad news, because that's very opinion-based. It's that the complete story is not being told."
Another panelist said journalists try to put Iraq into a Vietnam mold.
James Taranto, editor of OpinionJournal.com, which used to feature a link to a blog called Good News From Iraq, said the problem was most U.S. reporters were expecting the Iraq war to follow a script from the Vietnam era, where U.S. troops get bogged down, the war fails and the public is outraged.
It's interesting the news story said "professional blogger" instead of "blogger," as if only a paid individual can make sound judgments on Iraq coverage.