The three national television networks have dedicated 181 minutes to weekday coverage of the Iraq war so far this year. (Source: NY Times 6/23) The total coverage for 2007 was 1,157 minutes. What’s the problem?
Terry McCarthy, a news correspondent from ABC, said that journalists are being frustrated about getting war stories onto newscasts. The decrease in the relative level of violence “is taking the urgency out” of the coverage, he added. Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for CBS, said on the Daily Show recently that the war seems to hold little interest for many Americans. Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS, said that coverage of Iraq is extremely expensive, chiefly because of security risks. Journalists at all three networks expressed fear that their news organizations will withdraw from the Iraq capital after the November election.
The fact is that there is plenty of violence in Iraq, plenty of drama, plenty of interesting footage for cameras (a number of independent films on the war have shown us that)–and I might add, plenty of serious questions for American citizens to consider, including (1) why are we there? (2) when and how should we leave? (3) what’s happening to the billions of U.S.tax dollars flowing in Iraq, and who is being enriched by this wealth? (4) how are the Iraqi people faring, both the ones who are still in the country and the 2,000,000 refugees who have fled? (5) why are we building permanent military bases in Iraq, and how many? (6) how are our Iraq veterans faring, especially those with terrible wounds of body and spirit? (7) how are the bodies of our dead soldiers handled, and why have we not been able to see the caskets and their coming and going? (8) how is the U.S. viewed by the rest of the world, because of our unilateral and illegal attack on Iraq? (9) what infrastructure, both physical and social, in our country has been sadly neglected because of money spent in Iraq? (10) since we’re borrowing heavily in order to finance this war, who is ultimately going to pay for it? This is not a definitive list, but it’ll do for starters.
So let me say this to the networks: do you exist only to make money for your stockholders, or do you in fact, because you own the airwaves, have a responsibility to the citizens of this country? Yes, it’s easy for people to look away. Who is going to make us see this war and consider its implications, if not you? Are you willing to do business as usual while our nation loses its integrity and any hope of leadership on the world stage? Are you comfortable letting the working class families of this country pay the price of failed national policy?
One reason that the Vietnam war was finally brought to a close is that the ugliness of that war was dumped right into our living rooms. We citizens needs to know the real costs of the Iraq war, because in a democracy, we are ultimately responsible the wars our country wages. Your part, network companies, is to have the courage to tell it like it is–whether or not everyone likes the story–and that would include your stockholders.