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, October 01, 2004  
Pulling Back the Curtain: What a Top Reporter in Baghdad Really Thinks About the War
Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi confirms that she penned a scathing letter that calls the war in Iraq an outright "disaster." She also reveals that reporters in Baghdad are working under "virtual house arrest."

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

(September 29, 2004) -- Readers of any nailbiting story from Iraq in a major mainstream newspaper must often wonder what the dispassionate reporter really thinks about the chaotic situation there, and what he or she might be saying in private letters or in conversations with friends back home.

Now, at least in the case of Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi, we know. Blog editor's note: And what we know is that Ms. Fassihi has come to conclude, "One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle."

To read the rest of the article, see E&P

4:10 AM

Thursday, September 30, 2004  
WSJ reporter Fassihi's e-mail to friends
What it's really like in today's Iraq

From: [Wall Street Journal reporter] Farnaz Fassihi
Subject: From Baghdad

Sept. 29, 2004

Blog editor's note: It's ironic that on the eve of the first presidential debate the most candid journalistic appraisal of what's really going on in Iraq comes in a private email by a Wall Street Journal reporter to friends that has been published by the Poynter Institute. Not only does it give a detailed and frightening view of what it's like to report an insurgency, it provides a view of Iraq that too often is missing from airbrushed mainstream journalism and is directly contrary to the optimistic pronouncements of the White House.

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to  and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never  walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

To read the rest of this remarkable narrative, see Poynteronline. You may also be interested in several comments written by subscribers that can be read at Letters to Romenesko

10:22 AM

Tuesday, September 28, 2004  
So who are the "stoned slackers" watching Jon Stewart?

By David Bauder,
Associated Press  
September 27, 2004

NEW YORK --The folks at Comedy Central were annoyed when Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly kept referring to "The Daily Show" audience as "stoned slackers."

So they did a little research. And guess whose audience is more educated?

Viewers of Jon Stewart's show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch "The O'Reilly Factor," according to Nielsen Media Research.

To read the rest of this dispatch, see

10:20 AM

Pressing Issues: Will Editorials Take a Stand on the War?
As the war turns even uglier in Iraq, polls show that many, if not most, Americans favor withdrawing some troops, now. It's suddenly becoming a hot topic in the media. Why are editorial pages still afraid of this?

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

(October 01, 2004) -- After a month of uprisings in Iraq, an unexpected hike in U.S. casualties and shattered good will in the Arab street, what do American newspapers have to say? So far, not very much, at least in terms of advising our leaders how to clean up or get out of this mess. But then, they are not alone. Republicans have been cackling for weeks over John Kerry's inability to distinguish his position on the war from the president's.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. I wrote the above for my column at E&P Online back in early May.

More than four months, several hundred American deaths and 1,000 U.S. casualties later, our cause (whatever it is) in Iraq is in worse shape than ever, if you can believe the declassified National Intelligence Estimate released in mid-September, the recent testimony of scores of military and civilian observers, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, a leading Republican from Nebraska.

There are no easy answers in Iraq, but one tough question remains: What are America's newspapers going to do about it?

To read the rest of this commentary by the editor of the newspaper industry's "bible," see E&P

10:12 AM

If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?

Juan Cole
Informed Comment
Sept. 22, 2004

Blog editor's note: Prof. Cole is a leading authority on Iraq and the region and a professor of history at Univ. of Michigan. The essay that follows is posted on his widely read blog, "Informed Comment."

President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

To read the rest of this speculative comparison, see Informed Comment

9:49 AM

Monday, September 27, 2004  
A Leak Probe Gone Awry

The New York Times
September 27, 2004

When the Justice Department opened an investigation a year ago into the question of how Robert Novak obtained the name of a covert Central Intelligence Agency operative for publication in his syndicated column, we expressed two basic concerns. The first was the need for an independent inquiry led by someone without Attorney General John Ashcroft's ultra-close ties to the White House. That was addressed belatedly with the naming of a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to pursue the accusations that unnamed Bush administration officials illegally leaked the woman's undercover role in an effort to stifle criticism of Iraq policy by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV.

Unfortunately, our second, overriding fear has become a reality. The focus of the leak inquiry has lately shifted from the Bush White House, where it properly belongs, to an attempt to compel journalists to testify and reveal their sources. In an ominous development for freedom of the press and government accountability that hits particularly close to home, a federal judge in Washington has ordered a reporter for The New York Times, Judith Miller, to testify before a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the covert operative's identity and to describe any conversations she had with "a specified executive branch official."

The subpoena was upheld even though neither Ms. Miller nor this newspaper had any involvement in the matter at hand - the public naming of an undercover agent. Making matters worse, the newly released decision by Judge Thomas Hogan takes the absolutist position that there is no protection whatsoever for journalists who are called to appear before grand juries.

To read the rest of the editorial, see The New York Times

10:31 AM

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