December 23, 2007

The Bias In What Gets Left Out

Pew Research Center issued a stinging indictment on Wednesday regarding the press coverage of Iraq this year, one that shows a subtle but clear editorial bias. The news media gave plenty of attention to the war in Iraq when they could show it as a failing enterprise, with half of all their coverage focusing on anecdotal stories of violence. When the success of General David Petraeus made even that coverage difficult, media outlets simply stopped reporting on Iraq (via Wake Up America):

Through the first 10 months of the year, the picture of Iraq that Americans received from the news media was, in considerable measure, a grim one. Roughly half of the reporting has consisted of accounts of daily violence. And stories that explicitly assessed the direction of the war have tended toward pessimism, according to a new study of press coverage of events on the ground in Iraq from January through October of 2007.

In what Defense Department statistics show to be the deadliest year so far for U.S. forces in Iraq, journalists have responded to the challenge of covering the continuing violence by keeping many of the accounts of these attacks brief and limiting the interpretation they contain.

As the year went on, the narrative from Iraq brightened in some ways. The drumbeat of reports about daily attacks declined in late summer and fall, and with that came a decline in the amount of coverage from Iraq overall.

This shift in coverage beginning in June, in turn, coincided with a rising sense among the American public that military efforts in Iraq were going "very" or "fairly well."

Editorial bias comes in several guises. Stories written with a particular slant only comprise a part of how news gets manipulated for political agendas. The most insidious form is when media outlets simply don't report on stories at all.

That has become apparent with Iraq. As the violence receded, one might have expected journalists to have more flexibility in reporting from the communities rather than from the understandable impulse to remain secure in the Green Zone. Instead, most did neither.

In May, nearly 18% of all stories reported involved Iraq. In July, it had fallen by two-thirds, even though Harry Reid insisted on an all-nighter over war strategy. By September, that fell to slightly over 4% -- in the same month when Petraeus testified before Congress.

Silence is not always golden. The use of the editorial pen seems clear and damning. As the US began to succeed, the media stopped reporting it.


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The SurrenderMedia has a tough choice to make this Christmas season - what kind of behavior will they reward with their attention (which is reflected in headlines and stories in their precious limited bandwidth)? For the first part of 2007 the media o... [Read More]

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