Commentary and links relating to media coverage of war; both before, during, and after.

William A. Dorman is Professor of Government at California State University, Sacramento, and has taught a course in War, Peace and the Mass Media since 1970.

Web Page

U.S. Foreign Policy Blog

E-Mail: dormanw at

<< current


War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Monday, August 18, 2003  
Roundtable: Perpectives on [Coverage of] Gulf II -- Retaken by Storm

(A set of three articles from Summer 2003 Political Communication Report which is an on-line journal jointly sponsored by International Communication Association & American Political Science Association)

History never really repeats itself, but sometimes it gives a good impression of it. A dozen years after its last war in the Persian Gulf, the United States military finds itself back in Iraq, apparently for the long haul this time.

After the first Gulf War, a group of scholars and professionals got together to produce a book about how the media had covered the war and how the public had responded. The book was called Taken by Storm. We asked some of the scholars who contributed to that volume and focused on media performance during the first Gulf War to give us their take on how the news did this time around. With no editorial prompting, the scholars who contributed to our roundtable thoughtfully considered every phase of the war in Iraq, from the pre-war debate to the post-war assessment. Here's what they had to say:

William A. Dorman, Professor of Government, California State University, Sacramento:
"[T]he fuss over wartime coverage is misdirected. How much evidence do we need...that the natural laws of contemporary U.S. journalism seem to hold that wars or interventions of short duration involving massive military might that aren’t the subject of significant debate among elites will always get coverage any Pentagon press officer could love. Journalism simply is no match for wartime patriotism, jingoism, occasional careerism, and bottom-line corporatism....What is still worth getting worked up about is coverage before a war begins, the period before rampant nationalism slams shut the door on critical inquiry." For the full article, see Stop Me Before I Shill Again: American Journalism and the Iraq War

W. Lance Bennett, Professor of Political Science, University of Washington:
"While I cannot speak for the Taken By Storm scholars in assessing the second Iraq war, I offer the personal observation that the level of mediated public deliberation was so diminished as to make the preponderance of journalism little more than an instrumental extension -- a sort of propaganda helper -- of the strategic communication goals of the administration....This result was, as they say in the methods trade, over-determined by at least ten factors that converged in Perfect Storm fashion. These factors pushed the press pack to write stories that seldom contested administration framing even though huge gaps in the credibility of that framing were available to knowledgeable reporters at the time." For the full article, see Operation Perfect Storm: The Press and the Iraq War

Robert M. Entman, Professor of Communication, North Carolina State University:
"[W]hereas news organizations know, or think they know, how to cover wars, the rules for and goals of post-war coverage appear quite murky. During the war, they know (or think they know) what constitutes a major battle and what a minor skirmish, which authorities to interview and which to ignore, what pictures to run and what to discard. Post-war, they don’t seem to have internal guidelines on what events constitute important progress toward the achievement of America’s goals for the occupation/liberation/demo-cratization of--and its ultimate departure from--Iraq.... [N]ews organizations do not seem to even be attempting to organize the information about daily events into a coherent “scorecard,” and that leaves audiences and citizens in a state of perplexity." For the full article, see Narrating the Endgame

5:46 PM

This page is powered by Blogger.