September 26, 2003

HERE’S ANOTHER PIECE ON MEDIA REPORTING IN IRAQ (“More of the media should embed themselves with the Iraqi people outside the Sunni Triangle, rather than inside the Baghdad bunker”), and here’s another firsthand report from the troops hitting the mainstream media. I think we have a trend, here.

Meanwhile Jay Rosen gets it right:

In press think, journalists choose the watchdog who growls too much over the cheerleader with plastic smile, and they believe these to be the relevant choices. . . .

Maybe the complaint is not with covering the problems; it’s the narrow range of problems seen in the news. Maybe you’re not missing the positive note so much as proper warning signals about what could go wrong, if we’re not alert. Preventative journalism, (one possible alternative) talks openly about problems; it also has tacit confidence they can be solved, which is a democratic attitude.

I don’t think the press is too negative. But it is at times too unimaginative to tell me what’s going on. Personally, I want to know about problems on the ground in Iraq, a country my country has occupied; and if it takes relentless problem-scouting by special ops in the press, I want that too. But relentless problem-solving is what’s needed on the ground and in the atmosphere of Iraq. This much we know. There’s a big story in wait out there, but journalists do not necessarily know how to tell it.

Or at least, care enough to do so. But that seems to be changing. And I agree, I don’t want cheerleading. But fake-toughness is just as phony as a plastic smile.