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.

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War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Friday, May 21, 2004  
Don't torture English to soft-pedal abuse


May 20, 2004

Geoffrey Nunberg is a linguist at Stanford University and the author of the new book "Going Nucular." This is adapted from a piece he did on NPR's "Fresh Air."

'Torture is torture is torture," Secretary of State Colin Powell said this week in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace.

That depends on what papers you read. The media in France, Italy and Germany have been routinely using the word "torture" in the headings of their stories on the abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison. And so have the British papers, not just the left-wing Guardian ("Torture at Abu Ghraib"), but the right-wing Express ("Outrage at U.S. Torture of Prisoners") and Rupert Murdoch's Times ("Inside Baghdad's Torture Jail").

But the American press has been more circumspect, sticking with vaguer terms such as "abuse" and "mistreatment." In that, they may have been taking a cue from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Asked about torture in the prison, he said, "What has been charged so far is abuse, which is different from torture. I'm not going to address the 'torture' word."

Some on the right have depicted the abuses even more mildly than that. In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Midge Decter called the treatment of detainees a "nasty hazing." Rush Limbaugh said it was "no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation." On a San Francisco radio station, shock jocks were describing the prison as "Abu Grab-Ass" and talking about the treatment in a ribald way that made it sound like "Animal House III - Bluto Bonks Baghdad."

To read the rest of this analysis, see Newsday

2:01 PM

Tuesday, May 18, 2004  
Where Was Press When First Iraq Prison Allegations Arose?
November 2003 AP report got little play or follow-up.

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

(May 13, 2004) -- Is the press trying to make up for lost time once again? The media is now bursting with accounts of prison abuse at Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons, but where were they last fall when evidence of wrongdoing started to emerge -- when a public accounting might have halted what turned out to be the worst of the incidents?

"It was not an officially sanctioned story that begins with a handout from an official source," Charles J. Hanley, Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The Associated Press, told me this week. Hanley started looking into accusations of abuse when he returned to Baghdad for his latest tour of press duty last September. It led to a series of stories, culminating in a shocking report on Nov. 1, 2003, based on interviews with six released detainees.

He is still amazed that apparently no one else was looking into the allegations, and no major newspaper picked up on his reporting after it appeared. Why? "That's something you'd have to ask editors at major newspapers," he said. "But there does seem to be a very strong prejudice toward investing U.S. official statements with credibility while disregarding statements from almost any other source -- and in this current situation, Iraqi sources."

To read the rest of this story, see Editor & Publisher

9:44 AM


Neuharth Explains Call for Withdrawal From Iraq
'USA Today' founder's column received tremendous reader response -- both negative and positive

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

(May 17, 2004) -- Al Neuharth tells me that he has written exactly 818 weekly columns for USA Today and his latest, on Friday, which advocated a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq -- and urged President Bush not to seek re-election -- has drawn "the fifth or sixth biggest reader response" of any of them.

That's not to say the feedback is all positive. "It's split," he reports. "Rabid Democrats love it and rabid Republicans not at all. As usual, the independents are the most thoughtful." The heavy response, he says, "is not necessarily any testimony to my column but it shows the country is bitterly split on this subject, and keenly interested."

So far, on this issue, among the top names in journalism, Neuharth is pretty much a Lone Ranger, but he has been in that position before. "I'm just an old fighting infantryman," Neuharth explains, "saying our troops don't have a real fighting chance."

To read the rest of this story, see Editor & Publisher

9:40 AM

Monday, May 17, 2004  
Photojournalism Up Close and Very Personal

Blog editor's note: This is a monthly web site devoted to photo journalism, with a numberof "hot off the presses" dispatches from journalists working in Iraq. This is one of the best "inside baseball" sites I've run across. If you want to get a feel for what it's like to report from hell, this is the site. See The Digital Journalist

10:36 AM

Hersh, Woodward are still the best in the business

David Shaw

Los Angeles Times
May 16, 2004

Blog editor's note: This column identifies two journalists much in the news of late as being the best in the business. Shaw, incidentally, is one of the best in the business at what he does: criticism of journalism.

Both Sy Hersh and Bob Woodward made their first major national impact as scruffy outsiders — Hersh in 1969, when he broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, Woodward in 1972, when he and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate story.

Hersh is still a scruffy outsider. Woodward is neither. But both are now back in the news — and influencing the news — in a big way.

To read the rest of Shaw's column, see Los Angeles Times

10:23 AM

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