Why don't you get the full story from the media?
The vast majority of the journalists in Iraq are courageous professionals working hard to do their job in extremely adverse circumstances. I know - I lived in a hotel with journalists from a major news network, several nationwide major newspapers, radio networks, newspapers from major cities and numerous freelancers.
But lets face it, nobody ever got a Pulitzer prize for the headline "Things are Going Well."
There are at least four reasons the situation in Iraq gets reported more negatively than is the case:
Which is not to say that everything is going spectacularly in Iraq and the news media is ignoring it.
Taking a country from a totalitarian system to a democracy is a tricky business. It is easy not to get
it right, especially not quickly. Germany didn't have elections until four years after WW II ended.
- The insurgents are very media savvy. They blow something up every day, and that is what makes the
news. The journalists have a term for it - the "daily bang-bang." Even if they wanted to report on
something else, they still would have to report on the explosion of the day first.
- Western reporters operate under severe restrictions. Beginning in February of this year, after two
members of a CNN crew were killed on the way back from covering a story in Hillah, most security organizations
recommended to their media clients to stay locked down in their hotels and let Iraqis gather the footage and
do the reporting. You'll notice that it is rare to see a Western reporter on the scene of a story. Most
do stand-ups - NBC always has the roughly pyramid shaped Babylon Hotel in the background, while CNN uses a blue mosque.
I was in Hillah the day the crew was killed, and it was an awful day. All of us felt terrible and I certainly can't
fault anyone for increasing security after that tragedy. However, while they are working very hard, no Iraqi has been
a journalist for much more than a year. And prior to May 2003, there were severe penalties for speaking freely, so
Iraqis don't even have the advantages of a cub reporter in the USA.
- While Iraq is improving for Iraqis, it is an extremely unpleasant place for Westerners.
I've traveled in about thirty countries, and Iraq is about as tough as it gets for a Westerner. Everyday food is pretty bad, and the bad food is awful. It is difficult to get exercise. You are being targeted for death by the insurgents by virtue of where you are born. Social lives, aside from hanging around with your immediate neighbors, are virtually non-existent. Telephone calls to your family are tough to make. I'm not a journalist, but I can see where it doesn't take too long to lose your perspective on the good side of things.
- A small percentage of reporters are actively slanting the story. I don't want to take anything
away from the majority of journalists who, as I have said, are extremely brave and doing work under
extremely adverse circumstances. However, some percentage - ten percent, twenty percent,
thirty percent€ it is difficult to say - is actively slanting their coverage.
For instance, I was at a party one night, chatting with a producer from one of the major networks who I
had just met. After about five minutes of normal, mundane conversation, it came out that I am a Republican.
She said "You Nazi!" and proceeded to go off on me for about twenty minutes.
Of course, this doesn't color her reporting.
Another woman at that same party, a freelancer for several major magazines, said "The entire goal of my
reporting here is to make sure George W. Bush is not re-elected."
But for every tragic car bomb that kills a dozen Iraqis (and every death is a horrible tragedy), there are 24,999,995 Iraqis who are having a relatively good day - getting married, starting new, higher paying jobs, getting information from outside their country for the first time, buying appliances they could not afford previously, traveling to visit relatives outside their hometown for the first time, practicing their religion as they chose rather than how Saddam decrees.
The Truth About Iraq.org is here to dispel the media myths and help America be proud of liberating 25 million people.
Founder, The Truth About Iraq.org
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