AP Just Noticed 'Iraq War Disappears' From TV

March 17th, 2008 7:30 PM

Apparently, AP's television writer David Bauder just noticed that the Iraq war has been canceled as TV fare lately. Maybe Mr. Bauder should have been reading Newsbusters because our own Rich Noyes noticed how the war had vanished from TV all the way back on Feb. 28th.

Of course, Bauder is trying to spin this neglect as mere "fatigue," as if the war were a fad that people have just grown tired of as opposed to TV losing interest because the war no longer fits the we-can't-win template that the media had been used to following with their coverage.

In fact, the surge has gone so well that even Bauder had to give the campaign its due.

From a journalist's standpoint, the story hasn't changed for several months. The American "surge" appears to have made progress, and while Iraq is hardly safe, pockets of the country are much safer than before.

I got a little laugh out of the "from a journalist's standpoint" line. Bauder seemed so crestfallen that there was so much darn good news coming from Iraq these days! But even though Bauder admits that the surge is working, there were other interesting, revealing -- even damning -- admissions in his piece showing how the media has only been interested in bad news from Iraq. In one segment, for instance, Bauder seems to admit that the only thing that qualified for coverage of the war was reporting the mounting number of American casualties, as if there wasn't any other part of the Iraq war story of interest to anyone.

Whether the media is to blame or not, people clearly know less about what's going on in Iraq than they used to. About half of Americans have consistently been able to correctly estimate how many U.S. military personnel have died there, most recently last August. But a survey conducted two weeks ago by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found only 28 percent knew that just about 4,000 Americans have been killed.

Isn't it interesting that Bauder seems to want to absolve the media for their lack of interest? It is also outrageous that Bauder seems to imagine that the one thing that makes the American people informed about the war is being up to date on the number of U.S. casualties. This is a stark admission that, as far as the media is concerned, the casualty rate IS the story, that there is no other part to the Iraq war story but the number of U.S. soldiers killed in "Bush's war."

Still, this corresponds nicely with what Noyes reported back in February.

And U.S. military deaths have also declined, falling from 126 in May 2007 to 40 in January 2008 and just 29 so far in February, with two days left in the month. Yet this good news seems to have diminished the media elite’s interest in broadcasting any news from Iraq.

Bauder's admission also gives us a reason why coverage on Iraq is always so negative.

Bauder quoted CNN president Joe Klein about why the coverage was falling, too. "There is always news out there if you look for it," Klein said. "What too many news organizations were doing was covering the car bomb du jour, and when the car bombing ceased, the coverage ceased."

If this isn't an admission of the shoddy coverage the war has received for the last 5 years, you'd be hard pressed to find one.

There was one more point to be made about the lopsided coverage of this war foisted upon us by the media. Bauder seems to find it newsworthy to mention that the coverage of the war is and has been changing of late.

That means replacing micro stories - how many people were killed by the latest roadside bomb - with macro stories of investigations and subtle changes in Iraqi society, said NBC News President Steve Capus.

For correspondents, the trade-off is less exposure on the air for more interesting stories that show enterprise. ABC's Terry McCarthy reported a love story with a Sunni woman and Shiite man marrying to the backdrop of sectarian violence in Baghdad. NBC's Richard Engel spent 10 days in Najaf reporting on Iranian influence there, and Damon got a strong viewer reaction to her story about a 5-year-old boy whose face was doused with gasoline.

But isn't this yet another admission that the war has been badly reported up to this point? After all, are these "more interesting stories" somehow all new? Have there never been any "more interesting stories" to be reported out of Iraq until now?

Well, clearly the media has never imagined there have been any "more interesting stories" because practically their only subject has been the number of U.S. casualties used as proof that we've lost and cannot win in Iraq. Happily, the surge is proving them wrong.

And that is precisely why coverage of the Iraq war has disappeared from our TV screens. None of our anti-war TV stations want to admit how wrong they were. So, they look the other way and pretend nothing is happening.

Move along, nothing to see here.

There’s one last point that I want to make here. The MSM continues the practice of putting quotes around the word surge every time they write about the surge campaign in Iraq. There is no reason to place quotes around this word at this point. The surge is a perfectly legitimate thing to call Petraeus’ campaign. There need be no quote marks. Do we say the “Normandy Invasion”? Do we say the battle of “Gettysburg”? Heck we don’t even put quotes around losing military efforts. Have you ever read “Waterloo” or “The Bay of Pigs”? No you see it written as Waterloo and the Bay of Pigs.

But the media continues to put quotes around the word surge as if there is some doubt that the word is legitimate, or as if it needs some sort of special treatment. It does not. At this point, the surge has been going on long enough that the scare quotes are no longer necessary…. unless, of course, you mean to continue cause doubt about the campaign in the minds of readers.