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 28, 2004  
To Tell the Truth


May 28, 2004

Some news organizations, including The New York Times, are currently engaged in self-criticism over the run-up to the Iraq war. They are asking, as they should, why poorly documented claims of a dire threat received prominent, uncritical coverage, while contrary evidence was either ignored or played down.

But it's not just Iraq, and it's not just The Times. Many journalists seem to be having regrets about the broader context in which Iraq coverage was embedded: a climate in which the press wasn't willing to report negative information about George Bush.

People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness.

But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable. What happened?

To read the rest of this column, see New York Times

8:54 AM

Thursday, May 27, 2004  
Newspapers Explain 'N.Y. Times' Iraq Note to Readers

By Joe Strupp
Editor & Publisher

May 27, 2004

Blog editor's note: But will the lesson of Iraq really be learned. I doubt it. I have never seen a greater collective inability to learn from experience than is manifest regularly in mainstream journalism, with the possible exception, to be sure, of Congress.

NEW YORK Fallout from The New York Times' editors' note about problematic Iraq-related stories spread to newspapers nationwide Thursday as editors were forced to come clean to their own readers about Times stories they published.

The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, offered a lengthy, 18-inch editor's note of its own on Page A2 that explained specifics about each of the four stories it ran, reported when and on which page they ran in the Chronicle, and also when and on which page they ran in the Times. On Wednesday, the Times had placed its own note on Page A10.

"We are trying to be as transparent as possible," said Robert J. Rosenthal, the Chronicle's managing editor. "We wanted to make readers aware."

The Times' editors' note admitted errors in the paper's coverage of several issues related to the Iraq War. Since all of the stories cited in the editors' note were made available through The New York Times News Service, as many as 350 U.S. newspapers had access to the articles.

To read the rest of this story, as well as related articles on the Times' action, you may have to complete a free registration at seeEditor & Publisher

12:46 PM


The Times and Iraq

May 26, 2004

In a remarkable editorial admission that some of the dramatic claims which received prominent coverage in the months leading up to the Iraq war may have been more manufactured than real, the Times announces that it is investigating its own reporting. Links to the results of the investigation so far can be found on the same web page containing the editorial. See New York Times

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.

In doing so — reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

11:51 AM

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