May 3, 2004

everybody's somebody's criminal

* The G-Rated War: How/Why media have covered up the casualties. excerpt:

"A team of researchers at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs led by myself and my colleague Steven Livingston recently analyzed 600 hours of coverage on CNN, Fox News Channel, and ABC from the start of the war on March 20 to the fall of Baghdad on April 9 to see how "real" the war looked on TV. We included the highly watched morning shows from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and afternoon and early evening coverage from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"Of 1710 stories we analyzed, only 13.5 percent included any shots of dead or wounded coalition soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, or civilians. Similarly, of the 5087 individual shots of either battles or casualties in those stories, only about 15 percent showed the latter.

"Even rarer were pictures of the ultimate cost of war: Fewer than 4 percent of the shots we analyzed showed dead soldiers or civilians. And even when the dead were shown, they were more likely to be hidden inside a coffin, under a sheet, or represented by some surrogate image such as a shoe.

"These data become all the more noteworthy in contrast to the lofty rhetoric offered by journalists who ran those gory pictures of charred and mutilated contract workers hanging from a bridge in Fallujah a few weeks ago. Those who used the images argued that it's the media's responsibility to show audiences the grim realities of war. As Nightline producer Leroy Sleavers put it:

"'War is a horrible thing. It is about killing. If we try to avoid showing pictures of bodies, if we make it too clean, then maybe we make it too easy to go to war again. After all, these men and women are over there in our names, whether you agree with the war or not. Shouldn't we know what price we are asking them to pay?'"
"In Vietnam, for example, the change in media coverage occurred following the Tet Offensive, which called into question administration claims that America was winning the war and peace was at hand. Whether Fallujah will become such a symbolic turning point in this conflict will depend, as it always does, on the White House's ability to convince the American people that the costs paid by U.S. soldiers (and now civilians) are worth it.

"But recognize the paramount journalistic failure inherent in this trend: Only after a war goes to hell will the media tell you the truth. Before that, reporters and, especially, producers are too cowed by the White House, perceived audience pressure, and these days the Patriotism Police in the right wing media to dare risk offense by simply doing their jobs and reporting the whole story about a war."

"Walt Whitman said of the horribly bloody Civil War 'the real war will never get in the books.' Sadly, Americans saw more of the grim reality of that war – the first American conflict in which photographs of dead soldiers were available to the public – than they do on television today."

* Clint Conley talks about the first Mission of Burma record in 22 years, which will be out tomorrow. [via largeheartedboy]

* Steve Almond's spring music tips.


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