Four weeks ago, MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" asked me to go to Baghdad in search of the story most of the mainstream media were missing. The network's vice president knew I was a supporter of the war, and suggested I find out if things had really gone as horribly wrong as the evening newscasts and major print dailies reported. What I found is that, in Iraq, the mounting body count is heartbreaking, but the failure of American journalism is tragic.
First, some popular illusions that need to be dispelled: Most correspondents for newscasts do very little, if any, actual reporting. They assemble the visual elements of a jigsaw puzzle whose shape is dictated by an unholy deity--"the wires." Every day, the Associated Press and Reuters offer an account of the major events in Iraq. If a bomb has exploded or an American soldier has been killed, that is the day's major event. Barring that, an alarming comment from an American official, like Ambassador Paul Bremer or General Ricardo Sanchez, will suffice.
Sadly, most of the piece is behind the subscription wall. But here's a summary, where we also get this nugget:
Beyond this structural failure, there is a problem of attitude. Along with freedom, America has brought to Iraq the notorious Red State-Blue State divide. Most journalists are Blue State people in outlook, and most of those administering the occupation are Red. Many of those who work for the Coalition, including civilians, carry guns. This either amuses journalists or makes them uncomfortable. Most of those who work for the Coalition are deeply invested, emotionally, in the success of America's enterprise in Iraq. (How else to explain why someone leaves an apartment in Arlington to live in a trailer in Baghdad and endure mortar attacks?) Most journalists did not support this war to begin with, and feel vindicated whenever the effort stumbles....