Captain's Quarters Blog

« Smoking Something At The UN | Main | Need Prayers »

January 28, 2005
Why Afghanistan Fell Off The Map

A curious phenomenon happened after the fall of the Taliban and the initial preparation for the Iraq invasion -- Afghanistan disappeared. Oh, not physically, perhaps, although judging from the paucity of news coverage from the newest democracy in Southwest Asia, one could be tempted to reach that conclusion. Now American Journalism Review reports on the vanishing Afghanis and the reason why we hear nothing of their progress:

Once a journalism hot spot, Afghanistan was all but left behind when the media's spotlight turned to the conflict in Iraq. In June/July 2003, AJR reported that only a handful of reporters remained in the struggling country on a full-time basis, while other news organizations floated correspondents in and out when time and resources permitted.

A year and a half later, Afghanistan has become even more of an afterthought. Only two news organizations--Newsweek and the Washington Post--have full-time reporters stationed in Kabul, the capital. Other major newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, rely on stringers in Afghanistan and correspondents based in New Delhi, India, to cover the region, a stark contrast to the hundreds of reporters pouring into Iraq since the war began. The New York Times uses a stringer, albeit a full-time one. Television networks have nearly disappeared.

With the establishment of a new government and building of infrastructure, a continuing U.S. military presence and the hunt for terrorists, Afghanistan is rife with stories of long-term consequence. Roy Gutman, a veteran Newsday correspondent who became its foreign editor in July, has long criticized the media for their lack of solid, in-depth coverage of what he calls one of the major conflicts of our time and the true beginning of the battle against al Qaeda. Now that major fighting is over, "it's very important to keep a spotlight on Afghanistan to see whether the U.S. government is able to manage it and able to succeed," he says.

Indeed it is, and the Afghanistan phase has had its victories and defeats. Gutman says he's concerned about the supposedly systematic abuse of Afghani prisoners by American militar, but mostly we'd like to get more information on how the new democracy has performed for Afghanistan. The introduction of a self-governing republic in that region, and a fairly secular one at that, should be one of the best stories in the past century. Historians should be sharpening pencils and furiously taking notes, as what has for centuries been a hardscrabble source of upheaval transforms itself (hopefully) into an exporter of democracy.

Instead, the journalists and their corporations have decided that nothing bleeds in Afghanistan any longer, and the attention span and political biases of their masters force a shift of resources to Iraq. I have no problem with Iraq receiving extensive coverage, although I would hardly characterize what we get as particularly deep. We see and hear about bombings, shootings, and beheadings all day long, but the lack of any news outside the most troubled areas of the Sunni Triangle wind up getting the Afghanistan treatment. The result is a skewed, overly pessimistic and unrealistic picture of our progress in Iraq as a whole -- and an almost-complete blackout of Afghanistan as well.

How bad has the mainstream media retreat been? Kim Hart gives the numbers at the end:

Full time in January 200[5]
Washington Post: 1 reporter
New York Times: 1 full-time stringer
Newsweek: 1 reporter
ABC: 1 full-time freelance producer

Full time in May 2003
Washington Post: 1 reporter
New York Times: 1 full-time stringer
Associated Press: at least 3 reporters
Chicago Tribune: 1 full-time stringer
Christian Science Monitor: 1 reporter
CNN: a team of 4, including 1 reporter
NBC News/MSNBC: 1 reporter-producer
NPR: 1 correspondent
Reuters: a team of 5, including 3 print staffers

The lack of resources in covering what should still be considered a theater of war is appalling. The media have abandoned their responsibilities in reporting the news, instead focusing on the headlines that fit their predetermined narrative. Obviously, Afghanistan no longer fits in that strategy -- which may tell us far more than any of their coverage would have in the first place.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 28, 2005 5:15 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Why Afghanistan Fell Off The Map:

» Shifting Attention from
I thought the Bush administration was the one that supposedly shifted all attention and resources from Afghanistan to Iraq. Speaking of shifting attention -- unless there are plenty of explosions and dead Iraqi voters to cover, expect the mainstrea... [Read More]

Tracked on January 28, 2005 11:57 PM

» We must be winning in Afghanistan. from Strange Women Lying in Ponds
Back during the Afghanistan phase of our response to 9/11 (remember those days of QUAGMIRE, the LONG AFGHAN WINTER, the MUSLIM STREET SEETHING due to ATTACKS during RAMADAN?). [Read More]

Tracked on January 29, 2005 9:36 AM

» Noticed something missing lately in the news? from Milblog
I'll give you some hints. They had an election recently. They had a peaceful transition of government. Their President thanked the US for all the help, and was ignored by the world press. The improvements in the country were roundly... [Read More]

Tracked on January 29, 2005 11:34 AM

» Daily Dish from The Cool Blue Blog
As I sit down to write this, it is 13 hours until the polls open in Iraq. Many have talked about what it will mean to the Middle East and North African Arab (and Persian) nations as the [Read More]

Tracked on January 29, 2005 11:50 AM

Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!