After months of improving security in Iraq, the big network morning shows on Friday cited one horrific suicide bombing as proof that “mayhem and misery are back in Baghdad,” as CBS correspondent Mark Strassmann put it. But over the last five months, the broadcast networks have consistently reduced their coverage of Iraq, as if the story of American success in Iraq is less worthy of attention than their old mantra of American failure in Iraq.

Media Research Center analysts tracked all coverage of the Iraq war on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through January 31, and we documented a steady decline in TV coverage of Iraq that has coincided with the improving situation in Iraq. Back in September, the three evening newscasts together broadcast 178 stories about the war in Iraq; in January, that number fell to just 47, a nearly fourfold decrease. (See chart.)



CBS "Evening News" showcased Aflac CEO Dan Amos on April 29 because the company plans to begin giving shareholders a vote on executive compensation beginning in 2009. While CBS correspondent Mark Strassmann did explain that the shareholders' vote would be non-binding, the premise of the story was that it could create a ripple effect throughout corporate America.



Report criticizes executive pay packages, laments pending legislation wouldn't help.



Twelve hours after the Today show repeatedly announced how NBC News had decided to call the situation in Iraq a “civil war,” as if that decision was major news itself, Monday's NBC Nightly News led with the term and conceded it could “erode” public support for the war. Meanwhile, CBS and ABC didn't go quite as far as CBS's Katie Couric referred to how Iraq “slips ever-closer to civil war” and ABC's Charles Gibson suggested “you can call it anarchy, you can call it chaos, you can call it civil war...”



On Friday’s "Early Show," there were three stories worth noting here on NewsBusters. First, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews painted the ruling by the FDA allowing the morning after pill, known as Plan B, to be sold without a prescription in many cases as an election year ploy by the Bush Administration and as a victory for women’s groups at the expense of conservatives.



Subsidized flood insurance encourages building on hurricane-prone coasts, while consumers are shocked at private market prices.



Nine months ago, CBS anchor Bob Schieffer painted Iraq as spiraling into civil war. It didn't happen then, yet on Wednesday night Schieffer renewed his ominous forecast. But unlike in May, this time his ABC and NBC anchor colleagues expressed the same prospect. Back on May 19 of last year, Schieffer teased the CBS Evening News with this unique warning: "Good evening. I'm Bob Schieffer. It just keeps getting worse in Iraq. The death toll is rising. Tension is growing between Shiites and Sunnis. Is the country sliding toward civil war?" He soon added: “Now there's been a surge of attacks on Shiite and Sunni Muslim clerics, and some fear that Iraq is sliding toward civil war.” From Baghdad, Mark Strassmann backed up Schieffer's thesis: "Tit-for-tat terror seems to be pushing Iraq towards civil war. This man says, 'We are heading toward a catastrophe.'"



In the middle of a Thursday CBS Evening News story on the destruction in Slidell, Louisiana, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, reporter Mark Strassmann showcased a distraught man “with a message for the President” who blasted Bush for how he responded in Iraq while not doing so for Louisiana. Anthony Nata charged: "You can go into Iraq and come in with big helicopters and set stuff up for people, but you can't do this for us? Come on, Bush. You can do better than that."



Unlike last week's brief but welcome departure from biased coverage on gas prices, CBS's Early Show was back to form with its biased reporting today, this time with correspondent Mark Strassmann faulting businesses for factoring higher gas prices into the price of goods and services: "And as prices keep going up, more businesses want customers, want you, to pay fuel surcharges, as if paying for your gas wasn't enough, now you're expected to pay for other people's."

Of course, it shouldn't have to take a brilliant economist to tell Strassmann that all businesses always pass on all their input costs to consumers in the final price of their goods and services, including the costs of fuel as well as wages, health care, taxes, and regulation, and that if not for a separate "surcharge," the additional fuel cost would just be factored and hidden into the "regular" price.

Read the entire transcript below: