Media should report both good, bad in Iraq

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 1, 2005

American and allied soldiers, government officials and privatefirms from many nations around the globe have done much to helpIraqis pull themselves back to their feet since the regime ofSaddam Hussein was toppled in April 2003.

Troops and workers have restored power to much of the devastatedcountry; they’ve reopened schools that long-since had been closedby the repressive government and they’ve tried to put the Iraqieconomy on the right track, working hard to get the precious oilpipelines flowing again.

But read, watch and listen to what much of the American mediahave to say, and you’d never know most of it. The same goes – inmany cases more so – for the press around the world.

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Relying solely to the mass media, one would think U.S. troopsare stuck in a quagmire, making no progress and doing little tohelp the citizens they were sent to liberate.

Nothing but bad news to report from Iraq? That just isn’tso.

Why, then, is that the picture painted in newspapers andbroadcasts day after day?

Some of it may be political and social bias on the part of aleft-leaning mainstream media here in the United States and abroad;however, in large part the reason we hear so much of the bad and solittle of the good is that, for better or for worse, that’s whatAmericans have come to expect as news.

There’s a saying that “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning that themost sensational (and often most negative) stories are deemed to bethe top story of the day. This didn’t happen overnight because theeditors of a newspaper or producers at a television network huddledin a dark corner and conspired to only report negative news; it hasdeveloped because that’s what American consumers of news have cometo expect and even demand.

To be sure, the situation in Iraq isn’t a bed of roses. Thereare almost daily bombings, unrest and instability in pockets of thecountry and a near-constant threat of violence in the country.

That picture, however, is not complete, and the media have anobligation to present all sides of the story. Too many mediaoutlets are falling down on this part of their job.

Reports from Iraq in the days to come will give us all a chanceto evaluate media coverage from the region, as throngs of presshave descended on Iraq and neighboring countries to report ontoday’s historic election in which Iraqi citizens will choose themen and women who will draft a new constitution for thecountry.

The threat of violence aside, free elections are, withoutquestion, a positive sign as one of the world’s newestdemocracies-in-waiting takes its first steps. We just hope themainstream media will see – and report – it that way.