Stung by Ingraham, NBC Claims its Iraq Coverage . . . Not Negative Enough

March 22nd, 2006 7:56 AM

Stung by allegations levelled by Laura Ingraham yesterday, NBC has admitted that its Iraqi coverage is inaccurate because it's . . . not negative enough.

Ingraham clearly hit an MSM sore spot with the charges she made during her appearance on yesterday's Today show, in which she locked horns with David Gregory and James Carville. Read Laura in the Lions Den.

Ingraham accused most American media of covering Iraq from their balconies in the Green Zone, confining their reports largely to IEDs and killings and missing the more positive stories that abound across the country.

On this morning's Today show, a defensive NBC asked whether it is doing a good job reporting on Iraq, and - surprise! - the Peacock Network assured itself and its viewers that indeed it is. If anything, Today told us, the situation in Iraq is even worse than the MSM portray it. You might say NBC's position is that its coverage is not negative enough.

Ingraham's gutsy appearance took on national momentum. Laura discussed it at length during her own syndicated radio show. Rush Limbaugh offered some interesting commentary, and Ingraham made an evening appearance on the O'Reilly Factor. At one point, Ingraham mentioned that it was her viewing yesterday of a report by NBC's Richard Engel, from the proverbial Green Zone balcony, that sparked some of her sentiment.

NBC fired back this morning, and featured the very same Engel in doing so.

Hosting the segment was Gregory, sitting in for Matt Lauer. He kicked things off asking "is the U.S. media focusing too much on the negative and ignoring the positive stories in Iraq?" Gregory then threw it to Engel in Baghdad, who began by alleging that there are "a lot of myths and misperceptions about what reporters are doing and are not doing here in Iraq."

Engel then narrated a montage showing that at various times, he and his crew have accompanied US troops, put on flack jackets and ventured outside the Green Zone, and exposed themselves to a variety of violent situations. We saw dramatic footage of Engel flat on the ground as bullets whizzed around. The point was made that even staying in the office can be dangerous, as the NBC News Bureau has twice been bombed. Engel also mentioned the danger of kidnapping, with 40 reporters having been taken hostage so far.

While making the case that Baghdad is a dangerous place and that the people covering display bravery, in many ways Engel failed to confront Ingraham's most fundamental charges. She had challenged NBC to apply some of the massive resources it devoted to the Olympics, or even to answering "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?", to its Iraq coverage. Ingraham suggested that Today host shows directly from Iraq, and that the media get off their perches and out into the field. Speak with the Iraqi military, meet with villagers and children. Ingraham predicted that the resulting stories would paint a picture of Iraq more positive than the gloom and doom seen in the glare of the latest IED explosion that is the typical MSM fare.

There was nothing in Engel's report to indicate that NBC had ventured much if at all outside Baghdad or made any systematic effort to speak with the Iraqi military, with Iraqi people-in-the street or with villagers in the many peaceful areas of the country.

Consider also the utter lack of objectivity in the Today's report. Rather than calling upon a journalism expert with a reputation for fairness to judge the nature and balance of NBC's reporting, NBC not only decided to grade itself, but gave the job to the very reporter that Ingraham had singled out for criticism.

"Hey, Mom - I got all A's! Gave them to me myself!"

If anything, Engel's report confirmed Ingraham's allegation that the MSM portray Iraq in a consistently negative light. At one point, Engel asserted that "reporting on everyday life is increasingly dangerous because life here is getting more dangerous." And incredibly, Engel closed by claiming that, if anything, NBC's coverage was . . . not negative enough.

When Gregory asked "is security the overall story?" Engel replied:

"Most Iraqis I speak to say most reporters get it wrong. The situation on the ground is worse than the images we project on television."

Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle'. Contact him at: