Media Failure in Buildup to War

" In Iraq Crisis, Networks Are Megaphones for Official Views" (FAIR, 3/18/03):

Network newscasts, dominated by current and former U.S. officials, largely exclude Americans who are skeptical of or opposed to an invasion of Iraq, a new study by FAIR has found. of all

Among the major findings in a two-week study (1/30/03=2/12/03) of on-camera network news sources quoted on Iraq:

  • Seventy-six percent of all sources were current or former officials, leaving little room for independent and grassroots views. Similarly, 75 percent of U.S. sources (199/267) were current or former officials.
  • At a time when 61 percent of U.S. respondents were telling pollsters that more time was needed for diplomacy and inspections (2/6/03), only 6 percent of U.S. sources on the four networks were skeptics regarding the need for war.
  • Sources affiliated with anti-war activism were nearly non-existent. On the four networks combined, just three of 393 sources were identified as being affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than 1 percent. Just one of 267 U.S. sources was affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than half a percent.

Covering the War Crisis

David Greenberg on American vs. overseas press coverage of the war crisis in the Washington Post, 3/16/03:

American journalists tend to be more squeamish than their European counterparts about setting the news agenda. If the leading political players don't get worked up about a would-be scandal, the press (usually) balks at arrogating that role to itself. European papers, on the other hand, allow themselves more freedom in deciding what's news, independent of official say-so.

Yet we should be cautious about ascribing differing American and foreign assessments of news stories to national traits or institutions. After all, not long ago the U.S. media would have treated these recent episodes as huge scandals -- the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers or My Lai or the 18-minute gap in Richard Nixon's Watergate tapes.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a simmering American skepticism about the motives and morality of our leaders boiled over. . . . And then the mood of active distrust began to subside. It was as if Americans, having faced the darkest elements of their system, couldn't bear to see any more. . . . Ever since [9/11], the public, including the press, has ascribed to the president a degree of goodwill unprecedented in the post-1960s era.

Overseas, however, events since Sept. 11 have led people in the opposite direction. Suspicion of U.S. motives has escalated; willingness to cut the Bush administration some slack has plunged. Where Americans' trust in their leaders seems distressingly high, as if the Nixon years have been forgotten, foreigners' faith in us is troublingly low. In that divide lie the roots of our irreconcilable takes on the news, and our contrary fears for the future.

Conservative Newspapers on 2/15 Protests

(As noted on the afternoon of February 16)

Canada's National Post: "Millions say 'No' to war. Cities around the world overrun in biggest protest in history"

Barricade, antiwar demonstration, New York City, 2/15/03

Orlando Sentinel: "Millions Protest War" (mainly a summary of wire services)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: No coverage on home page. AP story, "Demonstrators around the World March against War with Iraq," runs below headlines about the weather and a Bloodmobile.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: No coverage on home page

Las Vegas Review Journal: No coverage on home page, but you can read about a stock car race being delayed by twenty minutes due to weather.

Indianapolis Star: "Weather Fails to Dampen Spirits at Rally" linked from home page. The lede, "Hearty Hoosiers, about 450 of them, braved snow, sleet and horizontal hail Saturday to join in spirit with millions of people around the world protesting an impending war with Iraq," is the only mention of protests outside Indianapolis.

Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman links to an AP story, "Iraq Hails Rallies; U.S. Works in Turkey." Lede: "Iraq on Sunday took heart from the global outpouring of opposition to the U.S. threat of attack, saying anti-war demonstrations in dozens of countries signaled an Iraqi victory and "the defeat and isolation of America." No other coverage.

Manchester Union Leader: An A.P. story, "Anti-war protesters gather near United Nations in NYC," is linked near top of home page. The story also summarizes protests elsewhere.

New York Post: "When Doves Cry: Dozens Busted in Anti-War Protests" linked at top of home page. Despite the headline, the article is actually a fairly balanced account of the New York protest. Beyond its mention that "It was one of many rallies around the world yesterday. More than a million people came out in Rome and London to protest the impending war in Iraq," no coverage of demonstrations elsewhere is offered.

Washington Times: Link to "Protests for Peace" near top of home page. The long article has a brief summary of demonstrations in the United States, but no mention of protests elsewhere apart from a single sentence noting that "Anti-war protests yesterday occurred in 300 cities worldwide, including 78 cities in Europe." Longer coverage of how protests were organized, and about the participation of "anti-war conservatives."

Orange County Register: Home page links to AP story, "Europe's Cities Send a Message," summarizing European protests (and featuring high-end participation figures for the most part). A "Related Stories" link from this article points to "O.C.'s biggest anti-war protest draws 2,000," which also covers other U.S. protests briefly -- and with much attention to counterprotests ("about 1,000 in Manhattan and a handful in Orange," as well as "some 200 war supporters" in Wausau, Wisconsin). Antiwar attendance estimates for New York appear later in the article, not at all for Wausau.