Accuracy in Media

A new Gallup poll finds that “just 44 percent of Americans express confidence in the media’s ability to report news stories accurately and fairly.” This was reported as a 10-percent drop from 54 percent a year ago. Only 9 percent of Americans say the media shows “a great deal” of ability to report news fairly and accurately. This sentiment seems to be shared by the Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

In an unprecedented attack, Allawi gave a speech before the U.S. Congress and singled out the media for criticism. It was in the context of noting that, despite intimidation and violence, over 1,400 Iraqi citizens had elected a national council in preparation for elections. He pledged to carry out the elections and said, “In 15 out of our 18 Iraqi provinces we could hold elections tomorrow. Although this is not what we see in your media, it is a fact.” Allawi gave an interview to the New York Times and repeated his criticism. Reporter Warren Hoge said that Allawi had “criticized news coverage of Iraq, saying that it focused only on violence and other setbacks and failed to capture the gains for Iraqi society.” Allawi said, “Of course, the media will report these suicidal crazy persons who will come and kill us, that is obvious, but the media overlooks that there are other areas which are improving.”

The focus on violence can perhaps be explained by the fact that many journalists in Iraq do not want to venture out of Baghdad because they fear the violence that they themselves highlight in their stories. In an article in the Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran acknowledged that foreign journalists are mostly staying in their Baghdad  hotels.

This story was itself about reports of violence in Iraq. Although he is based in the country, he cited a study conducted by an outside firm which found that “attacks against U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and private contractors number in the dozens each day and have spread to parts of the country that had been relatively peaceful…” Later, these attacks were termed “hostile incidents” that included children throwing molotov cocktails. Hence, the “attacks” supposedly documented in the story were inflated to make the situation seem worse than it is.

That was evident when the Post reporter noted that, at the same time, Baghdad “retains an air of normalcy. Motorists clog the roads during rush hour. Markets bustle with shoppers. Restaurants fill up with lunchtime customers.” So the story about the survey on violence appears to be another attempt to emphasize the “gloom and doom.” However, the latest terror message from al-Qaeda number two, Ayman Zawahiri, suggests desperation on the part of the terrorists. He warns that the terrorists “can’t wait any longer” or else “we will be eaten up country by country?”

The effect of the negative news coverage is to demoralize the American people and convince the public that Iraq is a quagmire and that the U.S. has to get out. Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi was in the U.S. in part to reassure the American people that progress is being made.  Thank you for telling the truth about our own lousy media.

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