It took only seven minutes after the announcement of a new pope for CNN to interview women's ordination activists in St. Peter's Square.
The liberal activists were the first interviewees on CNN after the white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel chimney. Correspondent Miguel Marquez pointed out their "ordain women badges" and gave credence to their cause. "We have heard this across the U.S. and around the world, certainly, that people do want and hope for a more open, transparent, liberal, progressive church," he noted. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Both NBC and ABC on Tuesday night noted the smallest number of American servicemen killed in Iraq since March of 2006, but while NBC's Brian Williams stressed the total number killed since the war began, ABC's Charles Gibson segued to a story about “booming” markets and significantly improving life in Baghdad. Eight days ago, ABC uniquely highlighted Fallujah's “extraordinary comeback story.” [See below] Williams cited three soldiers killed, observing “that brings the toll for October to 37 Americans dead, which we should point out is the lowest monthly total in a year and a half. Since the war started almost four and a half years ago, more than 3800 Americans have died in the war in Iraq.”
Gibson listed 36 as killed, not 37, and clarified “some of them in non-combat-related incidents.” After relating how “that is the lowest number of U.S. deaths since March 2006,” Gibson described “violence on a downward trend” in Iraq so now “Iraqis are learning to adapt to what might be called a new normal.” Reporter Miguel Marquez conveyed how Baghdad's largest market is “booming. Big sales, says this vendor. Everything, 2,000 dinars. There hasn't been an attack here since February.” Marquez highlighted “pockets of security where life is starting to get back to normal,” but, he acknowledged, “it's not a normal by most standards” since though “large-scale violence between Sunnis and Shiites has stopped,” there "are still criminal gangs” so “most people...are too afraid to leave their homes.” Still, “with wedding season coming up,” a woman florist “is hopeful that business and life will get back to something like normal.”
A rare upbeat story on Iraq ran Monday night on ABC's World News. Anchor Charles Gibson touted “an extraordinary comeback story” about Fallujah, the city of one of the war's bloodiest and longest battles, but now where reporter Miguel Marquez discovered bustling markets, Marines welcomed by kids and no car bombs or shootings of Marines in several months. Gibson effused about how “we have an extraordinary comeback story tonight from the place where the Marines suffered their worst losses of the war. Fallujah is undergoing a remarkable turnaround. Tribal leaders, local officials and the U.S. Marines have united behind a common cause. Bringing security to a place that had been one of Iraq's most insecure.”
Over matching video, Marquez described how “the markets bustle. Traffic chokes the streets. Marines, once despised here, are now a welcome sight.” Viewers saw video of a Marines with kids before Colonel Rich Simcook told Marquez: “This is one of my big measures of effectiveness, where, you know, kids will come up to you, you know, they feel safe to come out and play.” Speaking with a Marine Sergeant, Marquez wondered: “When's the last time you were shot at these days?” The Marine replied: “I'd say, end of March.” Marquez saw a corollary sign things are going well: “The last car bomb in Fallujah was in May.” Though Marquez added some caveats about high unemployment and the lack of weapons for the Iraqi police, he concluded on the bright side: “There are encouraging signs. Schools just opened, and enrollment is at its highest since before the war. Construction, from huge infrastructure projects to fixing sidewalks, is everywhere. Fallujah even sports solar street lights...”
The news media “eagerly reported” comments from General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top commander in Iraq, “calling the war in Iraq a quote 'nightmare with no end in sight,'” FNC's Brit Hume noted Monday night before pointing out how “there has been considerably less reporting of his harsh criticism of the press in the same speech.” Indeed, in his Friday address to a group of journalists, Sanchez regretted how “tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America because of the tremendous power and impact of the media” and scathingly asserted that reporters “are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war.” Sanchez also charged: “For some of you, just like some of our politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your own pre-conceived notions, biases and agendas.”
Not surprisingly, that deprecatory view of the media did not interest journalists over the weekend. The NBC Nightly News, for instance, ran a full story Friday night on Sanchez's comments critical of Bush officials, but didn't mention what he said about the news media. CNN's Wolf Blitzer led the 7pm EDT hour of Friday's The Situation Room with how “Ricardo Sanchez says 'America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.' That's a direct quote. And he's sharply critical of U.S. strategy with stinging judgment of government officials.” The critique of the media didn't come up in the segment with Pentagon reporter Jamie McIntyre. Saturday's front page New York Times article, “Ex-Commander Says Iraq Effort Is 'a Nightmare,'” ignored the media angle while front page story in Saturday's Washington Post, "Ex-Commander In Iraq Faults War Strategy," didn't refer to the scolding of the media until the very last paragraph.