Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reporters Notebook: Who is covering the war in Iraq

COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ - The last time I was in Baghdad I ran into John McChesney from NPR on my first day here, and then I spent a few days in Fallujah with Tom Bowman the NPR Pentagon corespondent. And this morning I ran into Cory Flintoff from NPR in the hall at CPIC.

"So what's the big deal about running into three reporters from NPR?", you are probably saying, "There must be a ton of reporters in Iraq right?"

Well, no there aren't. The number of news organizations that are willing to make the investment to actually produce original front line coverage of the war is pretty small. That's part of what motivated me to start doing this in the first place: how few other journalists were actually here in Iraq doing original reporting in the field (not just going to press briefings in the Green Zone).

Since I'm at the CPIC in the Green Zone this morning, which is the central press office for the military in Iraq, I asked one of the public affairs officers here for some details on how many journalists are currently embedded with the US military in Iraq, and here are some facts.

As of this morning there were 15 journalists embedded in Iraq, John and I will make it 17.

Here is the breakdown of the organizations these journalists represent:

5 x Americans from mainstream media organizations: Time, Newsweek, FOX News, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times

4 x Various nationalities representing news/photo agencies: UPI, AP, Agence France Press, & World Picture Network

1 x American civilian working for an official military publication

2 x Italians with mainstream media organizations in Italy

3 x Americans apparently working on books or other longterm research projects

Noticeably absent: CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, The Washington Post. Also noticeably absent: there are no local or regional news organizations. What we are doing, providing hometown coverage of the Minnesota National Guard is fairly unusual.

Lastly, there are currently no independent bloggers embedded in Iraq. There is a small cadre of independent bloggers (such as Michael Yon and Bill Roggio) who have been going to great lengths often at personal expense to provide excellent independent coverage of the military in Iraq, but none of them are here at the moment.

It is important to point out that there are other journalists from US news organizations here in the Green Zone, providing permanent bureau coverage of events here as reported by the military, but that's a lot different from the sort of embedded reporting we are doing from the field.

There are also numerous brave Iraqi journalists out on the streets working (and dying) for US news organizations. To date 207 journalists have been killed covering the war in Iraq, and all most all of them have been Iraqi. By contrast only 2 journalists have died while embedded with the US military in Iraq since the start of the war (one of them from natural causes).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that the lack of coverage is very unlike that of WWII. I say that because in WWII the technology was different, and our culture here in the US was different. The government really controlled what was reported.

Today, the media is such a huge part of our culture, where our very lives are shaped by what we hear from them (whether it is true, not true, spinned so kinda true, etc). It has been so apparent to me in conversations with the veterans as well as active duty personnel that what we are hearing from our popular media outlets (the ones you note as being conspicuously absent) is not the whole story. Bad news is good press. It increases viewers.

The days of objective reporting over (or at least, objective reporting is rarer than before, I am sure that it has always been subject to subjectivity if that makes sense).

I find it incredibly frustrating that people say we need to get out of Iraq, and are basing their statements on just the bad stuff they see on the news. Our culture here in the US is that we have the attention span of gnats, we shape our opinions quickly and shallowly, and it is fairly rare to see someone actually try to get both sides of a story, or the complete story anyway.

No one reports on the good that is being done there. No one reports on what the Iraqi opinions are of what is going on.

It is a shame. And I commend you for risking your life to try to get the whole story, if only just a slice.

Stay safe Eric!

Day by Day, by Chris Muir (updated daily)

Chris Muir is the cartoonist that I met in Kuwait. He spent two weeks in Iraq at the same time I was there in February 2007, and so thought it would relevant to showcase his work on my site. Here is a link to Chris' humorous travelogue of this Iraq trip: http://billroggio.com/archives/2007/03/arrival_alignright_v.php