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More On the Media Backlash Over Iraq

Howard Kurtz discussed the subject of the media's coverage of Iraq yesterday on the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. There's a good deal worth reading, but here's the takeaway from Blitzer's final quetion:

BLITZER: Very briefly, is there any sign of a backlash against the mainstream media because of our coverage of what's happening in Iraq?

KURTZ: Yes, among conservatives, among military family members and others. A lot of people, as we saw that woman from West Virginia, blaming us for the situation there.

I think Kurtz misspoke here: nobody is blaming the media for the situation on the ground, only for largely failing to present a balanced picture of what's taking place in Iraq. There is also an implication, however, that by providing so much of a one-sided, negative picture of the war the media is buoying the hopes and spirits of the insurgents and making things harder on our troops, as well as depressing public opinion back here at home.

Right after the interview with Kurtz ended, Jack Cafferty came on to provide what I think could be accurately described as the prevailing point of view of the MSM on the subject:

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I just have a question. I mean, part of the coverage, they don't like the coverage, maybe because we were sold a different ending to this story three years ago. We were told that we'd be embraced as conquering heroes, flower pedals strewn in the soldiers' paths, a unity government would be formed, everything would be rosy this -- three years after the fact, the troops would be home.

Well, it's not turning out that way. And if somebody came into New York City and blew up St. Patrick's Cathedral and in the resulting days they were finding 50 and 60 dead bodies a day on the streets of New York, you suppose the news media would cover it? You're damn right they would.

This is nonsense, it's the media's fault and the news isn't good in Iraq. The news isn't good in Iraq. There's violence in Iraq. People are found dead every day in the streets of Baghdad. This didn't turn out the way the politicians told us it would. And it's our fault? I beg to differ.

First, Cafferty errs in saying that anyone ever suggested the troops would be home in three years - or any amount of time, for that matter. Second, it's clear he's opposed to the war in Iraq - he thinks we were misled, the policy is a failure, etc - and that the media is just fulfilling its obligation to report on the violence that is taking place as a result of the administration's policies. That's fine, but it's also a bit of a cop-out because there is another side to the story.

How can Cafferty explain the fact that the vast majority of people who have traveled to Iraq, including elected officials from both parties, say things are significantly better than expected and surprisingly different from what they were led to believe from media coverage in the U.S.?

The fact is there are two realities in Iraq. One reality is the intense and sometimes gruesome violence that takes place in Baghdad and the surrounding provinces. Another reality is the millions upon millions of people who are living peacefully throughout the country and also the work our soldiers are doing to make those lives even better. If Jack Cafferty considers himself to be a journalist, then he has an obligation - irrespective of his personal feelings about the administration's policy in Iraq - to provide a balanced look at both of those realities. But Cafferty, like the rest of the mainstream media, doesn't seem too concerned about putting forth the effort to provide either balance or context, and therein lies the entire problem.