Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Shame On The Media

No Shame, No Blame -- Media Refuse to Face Up to Role in Iraq Disaster

Greg Mitchell:

In the thousands of articles and television reports in recent days surrounding the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq -- and the grim milestone of 4,000 U.S. troops dead there -- nearly every important aspect was probed, and fingers were pointed: at Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer or Dick Cheney, at stubborn Republicans or weak-willed Democrats, and at many others. But conspicuously absent as a subject in the media analysis and reassessment were... the media.

It's as if the war had been planned, launched, and continued for more than half a decade with hardly any major media slips or tragic omissions. The media, with months to plan for the five-year commemoration, were ready to take stock of everything but themselves. By and large, when they did review their role, it was to showcase some of the undeniably terrific reporting, photography, and videography that have emerged from the war zone.

A frank assessment of the overall media performance, from the "run-up" to the "surge," was nearly non-existent. That's not only shameful and revealing -- it's a real missed opportunity, since there is so much to be learned from it by current and future generations of journalists.

Yes, the fateful media mistakes and misreporting of Iraqi WMD before the war has been covered in the past, although with few apologies.
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What about the reluctance of editorial pages and pundits to propose, even tentatively, a real change in course in Iraq, as month after month and then year after year passed? Almost four years went by before a leading newspaper called for the beginning of even a very slow, phased withdrawal. What do they think of that delay now? Why do the many columnists who were so wrong about the war fail to come clean about their mistakes?

And just in recent months: Why are there so few reporters covering the war now? Are budgetary excuses and blaming readers for not being very interested anymore really valid? Or do readers take their cues from the (increasingly disinterested) media?
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As I have often indicated, there has been an ample amount of truly heroic journalism from the war zone and tough-minded probing into the causes and conduct of the war here at home. But the media's current failure to examine some of the questions above only adds to the black mark they have received for past miscues and errors in judgment related to this catastrophic war.

[Greg Mitchell is the author of So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits - and the President - Failed on Iraq.]

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