Media and Iraq: Suppressing the Good News
. . . how the broadcast networks downplayed a very successful Iraqi election that ratified the new constitution, a major step to a stable democracy in that nation:
An overwhelming 79 percent of Iraqis, who risked their lives just over a week ago to cast their ballot, voted in favor of the nation’s new constitution, but you’d have missed it if you sneezed during Tuesday’s CBS Evening News or ABC’s World News Tonight. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer delivered only this single sentence — “Iraq’s government announced today that voters did approve the country’s new constitution in this month’s referendum” — before moving on to a full story about the 2,000th death of U.S. servicemen in Iraq, a piece he could not resist introducing without adding this snide aside: “More than 90 percent of the 2,000 who died in the war have died since the President declared major combat was at an end in May 2003.”One can always debate news judgment, but the 2,000 death “milestone” is an entirely contrived news “event.” The 2,000th death isn’t more significant than the 1,999th death, nor the 2,001st death.
But the overwhelming victory for a new constitution, in an election with higher turnout than U.S. presidential elections, is very important news indeed. The “news judgment” that passes lightly over the latter and obsesses over the former has to be affected by the ideological biases of the journalists.
It’s not that they, as they did in the Vietnam War, have decided that they want an American defeat. It’s that they naturally gravitate to stories that are bad news for President Bush.