The Good News Blackout

On Wednesday we posted on the anti-terrorism demonstration in Baghdad, in which thousands of Iraqis participated. We linked to Healing Iraq, a blog by an Iraqi dentist who posted a number of photographs of the demonstration. Over the last two days, Glenn Reynolds has been all over the mainstream media’s failure to cover the demonstration, especially the New York Times and the Washington Post. The usual debate rages: are reporters and editors biased, or just lazy?
Today John Podhoretz wrote on the same subject in the New York Post:
“In Baghdad on Wednesday, as many as 10,000 Iraqis marched in support of democracy and against terrorism. They marched in broad daylight, out in the open, which meant they knew they might be spotted, even photographed, by Saddamite monsters….
“Unless you spend your days and nights trolling the Internet, you probably know nothing about this wondrous and hopeful event – for which the lion’s share of the security was provided by Iraqi police. The New York Times buried a paragraph on the march deep inside its daily Iraq story, giving far more prominence to a bank robbery in a Baghdad suburb. Nothing in the Washington Post.
“If you are a conventional consumer of news, from newspapers and TV networks, you have basically been kept in the dark. That would once have been the end of it. No longer. The failure to cover the march is not a full blackout but rather just a brownout.
“Unconventional sources of news on the Internet will keep this story alive, right in the middle of Baghdad….We knew about the march beforehand, and about what happened at the march afterward, from the most important ‘weblog’ in the world right now – a blog called Healing Iraq….Its author is a 24-year-old dentist named Zeyad who lived as a boy and briefly as a teenager in London….This new kind of journalism – personal, unabashedly ideological, fueled by passion and a hunger to inform the world – is beyond exciting. It is world-transforming, and if the frighteningly conformist and pathetically self-satisfied mainstream media don’t pay attention, they will continue their fast fade into irrelevance.”
Well, I hope so. But the fact that a relative handful of news junkies who inhabit the blogosphere are able to get unfiltered information doesn’t begin to make up for the complete failure of major media to cover good news in Iraq. And it’s not just the obviously liberal sources like the Times and the Post.
Yesterday my brother, the Rocket Prof, emailed us about the coverage of the Baghdad demonstration in the Salt Lake City Tribune–not what I would have considered a hotbed of leftism:
“The Salt Lake Tribune carried a Knight-Ridder story on the Baghdad rally on its front page today. But you have to read very carefully to understand it as good news. A short first paragraph notes: ‘About 10,000 Iraqis tried to send terrorists a cease-and-desist message Wednesday from downtown Baghdad in the biggest demonstration against violence to date.’
“That’s followed immediately by a second paragraph starting with ‘But’ that notes the deaths of two American soldiers and the wounding of four others. Paragraph three tells us that an Air Force C-17 transport plane made an emergency landing after an explosion in an engine, ‘possibly after being hit by a missile.’ Paragraph four details the bad news from Mosul.
“Finally, in paragraph 5 (by which time we are on page A16), we get this account of the protests: ‘In Baghdad, the protesters snarled traffic by filling Fateh Square near the National Theater and Fardos Square in front of the Palestine Hotel. Chanting ‘No, no terrorism’ and ‘Yes, yes Islam,’ they carried photographs of religious leaders and unfurled banners that read ‘The Iraqis Should Not Forget Palestine.’
“Note the emphasis on snarled traffic (surely an inconvenience to reporters who were trying to cross town while avoiding coverage of the protest), and also the chants…along with the reference to placards of religious leaders and banners in support of Palestine. This account makes the demonstrations look for all the world like an anti-American event. Paragraph six notes, ‘By strengthening Iraqi security forces and announcing a plan to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis by next summer, the United States hopes to stem some of the anger and frustration many Iraqis have voiced.’ Again, the implication seems to be that the protests expressed anger at the US.
“Finally, the pictures. Two ran with this story. One, on the front page, is a shot of protesters in Basra (the story contains no mention of Basra). Its most striking feature is that it is shot through a coil of razor wire. (Apparently there wasn’t enough razor wire lying around in Baghdad to stage such a shot there….)”
Personally, I think the theory that reporters are well-meaning but lazy is silly. The anti-American, left-wing bias is deep and broad. It appears to me that the vast majority of journalists are infected. For the situation to improve significantly, I think we will have to await a new generation of reporters and editors.

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