Big three networks hide the ball on political progress in Iraq

A week ago, I noted that the Washington Post had reported, grudgingly and on page 8, that in the judgment of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi government has met 15 of the 18 benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress for measuring political progress in Iraq. This is almost twice the number of benchmarks deemed satisfied a year ago. Our government’s assessment, moreover, was corroborated by the decision of the largest Sunni political bloc (also noted by the Post on page 8) to rejoin the Iraqi government.

The Post’s decision to relegate this powerful evidence of progress in Iraq to the deep in side its news section stands in contrast to its decision the following day to make a front-page story out of our “troop shortage” in Afghanistan. It also stands in contrast to its longstanding pattern of highlighting bad news from Iraq.

But the Post was downright gushy about progress in Iraq compared to the three broadcast networks. In fact, as the Media Research Center points out, none of them saw fit to mention the significant increase in the number of benchmarks deemed satisfied by the embassy and by the administration in its report to Congress. During the entire week, NBC was the only network that put the words “Iraq” and “progress” together. It did so in an item on the Today Show of July 4 about optimism on the part of American soldiers in Iraq. The networks’ decision not to cover the fulfillment of nearly all of the benchmarks for political progress in Iraq earned them the Media Research Center’s “Worst of the Week” award.

The mainstream media likes to tout its access to the “reality on the ground” in Iraq, a reality it claims the Bush administration has attempted to hide. In doing so, the MSM has exaggerated the scope of its first-hand coverage of Iraq. For example, a friend who spent half a year serving in Anbar province told me the only U.S. reporter he saw during that entire time was Oliver North. Nor, from what I understand, was the American MSM conspicuous in Basra during the recent fighting there.

In any event, the MSM’s access constitutes an asset for news consumers only to the extent it is willing even-handedly to report both good news and bad. This is a test the MSM, and especially the broadcast networks, continues to fail.

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