Ashley Gilbertson, a freelance photographer who has covered the war for Newsweek, Time and The New York Times and has written about covering the conflict in a book called “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” will be going back to Iraq in June. It will be his sixth time there, temperatures will range up to 130 degrees, and each time he has gone back there have been new restrictions.
“Many of my colleagues have turned away from the story because it has gotten to the point where they feel they just aren’t going to get anything useful, which I completely understand,” he said, adding that nonetheless, when the surge ends this summer, he wants to be there to chronicle what follows.
David Carr, for The New York Times, wrote this excellent piece about the abysmal state of press coverage of the war in Iraq. Weaving in some fantastic personal reminders that the War is indeed still going on, Carr reminds the rest of Americans that on Memorial Day we ought to think long and hard about "a war that had cost thousands of lives and over $1 trillion" all the while loosing "news salience."
According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has slipped to 3 percent of all American print and broadcast news as of last week, falling from 25 percent as recently as last September.
“Ironically, the success of the surge and a reduction in violence has led to a reduction in coverage,” said Mark Jurkowitz of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “There is evidence that people have made up their minds about this war, and other stories — like the economy and the election — have come along and sucked up all the oxygen.”
This, is of course, just another example of the poor state of the Fourth Estate in this country. Carr is far from the first person to voice this concern and is probably not the most eloquent to do so, but the point still stands: the news media needs to do their job. It needs to report on the government and the war. Ratings, which are nothing more than poll results, ought to come secondary to the primary purpose of the news industry - to give news to the people. Yes, the media does in fact have a higher moral obligation that it is required to fulfill.
Furthermore, I don't buy the argument that there is nothing happening and therefore nothing to report. We manage to fill the airwaves with 24 hours of 'news' occurring in this country. Surely there is just as many stories to be told in not one, but two war zones!?
If the government is restricting access, then get around them. That's the job of the Fourth Estate: to uncover the things the government is trying to hide.
No doubt, reporting in a war zone in dangerous. Especially in the Middle East where kidnapping journalists has become a standard practice. Undoubtedly, having protection of US troops is a huge comfort and an increase in safety.
No trip outside the Green Zone is remotely safe. The enemy lurks everywhere among the population. Attackers show no mercy for innocent bystanders, who commonly outnumber intended targets. Each mission carries the threat of roadside bombs, suicide attacks by explosives-packed cars and trucks, and ambushes by insurgents.
Yet, I have to wonder if the press can't resort to the same tactics that the US military is resorting to – private military contractors. Surely someone can figure out how to not be as reliant (or complacent) as the press apparently is on the US government to tell them what to cover and where they can cover it from.
Shocking. The broadcast media has nothing about the war, while the print media carries a few stories.