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
Thursday, February 22, 2007  
"Today's" Middle East 100
--A case study in framing and priming public opinion--

February 22, 2007

Blog editor's note: NBC's top rated morning program, "Today," is running a series entitled "Middle East 100," which purports to be a primer for Americans interested in understanding the troubled Middle East. The first segment to deal specifically with Iran is a case study in how the media can take its cues from official Washington and pass them on to the viewing public as "expert analysis." From the segment's opening and the bald assertion that Iran wants to be THE "superpower" in the Gulf, a claim for which their is little if any historical evidence, the thrust of the clips and voice over is clear: Iran is a rogue state to be reckoned with. It's instructive to see how quickly a major television network can forget the lessons of abject press failure in the run-up to the 2003 war with Iraq.

To view a video clip of the segment, go to Scroll down to the picture of Iran's President Ahmadinejad to the right in a box labelled NBC Video and double click to watch.

9:13 PM

Wednesday, February 21, 2007  
Media musings: PBS series exposes press failings

By Jane Burns
February 20, 2007

Really, I apologize. I am really, really sorry.

That's pretty much the way I felt after watching the first episode of "News War: Secrets, Spin and the Future of the News," a "Frontline" series that began last week and continues for three more Tuesdays.

So after watching that first one, I feel compelled to apologize on behalf of the entire media.

The feeling of shame washed over me as scene after scene played out of government officials giving information that now proves to be untrue. The shame comes from knowing that so many questions needed to be asked and never were and that those put in the positions to do that very thing essentially wore signs on their backs that said, "Walk all over us, Dubya."

The media willingly accepted all that was said while forgetting the basic premise of all journalists: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Sorry, indeed.

To read the full text, see

10:07 AM

Tuesday, February 20, 2007  
Small US Towns Bear Scars From Iraq

By Kimberly Hefling
The Associated Press
Monday 19 February 2007

Blog editor's note: One indication that the mainstream press is beginning to pay attention to stories that should have occurred to editors months if not years ago is this piece by Associated Press wire service about who is bearing the main human cost in the U.S. of the war in Iraq.

McKeesport, Pennsylvania - Edward "Willie" Carman wanted a ticket out of town, and the Army provided it. Raised in the projects by a single mother in this blighted, old industrial steel town outside Pittsburgh, the 18-year-old saw the U.S. military as an opportunity.

"I'm not doing it to you, I'm doing it for me," he told his mother, Joanna Hawthorne, after coming home from high school one day and surprising her with the news.

When Carman died in Iraq three years ago at age 27, he had money saved for college, a fiancée and two kids - including a baby son he'd never met. Neighbors in Hawthorne's mobile home park collected $400 and left it in an envelope in her door.

For a year after his death, Hawthorne took a chair to the cemetery nearly every day, sat next to his grave and talked quietly. Her vigil continues even now; the visits have slowed to once a week, but the pain sticks.

Across the nation, small towns are quietly bearing a disproportionate burden of war. Nearly half of the more than 3,100 U.S. military casualties in Iraq have come from towns like McKeesport, where fewer than 25,000 people live, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. One in five hailed from hometowns of less than 5,000.

To read the full text, see

8:50 PM

Sunday, February 18, 2007  
Demise of the Foreign Correspondent

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post
Sunday, February 18, 2007; B01

Blog editor's note: The ever increasing trend among media owners to chase profits instead of stories leads to what I call "Zen Journalism": If something happens in the world but no journalist is there to cover it, did it happen?

When I think back on the most momentous events of my professional life, they include scenes of both devastation and deliverance. The boulevards of Manila, flooded with peaceful demonstrators chanting for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos to abandon power. The slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where a joyful, gyrating mob of slum-dwellers is celebrating the election of populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. The highlands of Guatemala or Peru, where grave sites conceal the victims of atrocity.

If the Boston Globe had not sent me abroad as a foreign correspondent in 1983, and allowed me to spend a decade in Latin America and other regions of the world, I would never have been able to witness these historic changes -- and bring them alive to readers back home. Even then, the Globe was one of only a handful of American newspapers willing to invest in the luxury of its own foreign staff, and I was keenly aware of how privileged I was to do all this while drawing a steady paycheck.

Today, Americans' need to understand the struggles of distant peoples is greater than ever. Our troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries that we did not know enough about when we invaded them and that we are still trying to fathom. We have been victimized by foreign terrorists, yet we still cannot imagine why anyone would hate us. Our economy is intimately linked to global markets, our population is nearly 20 percent foreign-born, and our lives are directly affected by borderless scourges such as global warming and AIDS. Knowing about the world is not a luxury; it is an urgent necessity.

But instead of stepping up coverage of international affairs, American newspapers and television networks are steadily cutting back. The Globe, which stunned the journalism world last month by announcing that it would shut down its last three foreign bureaus, is the most recent example.

To read the full text, see Washington

6:13 PM

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