Thursday, June 15, 2006


Press Manipulation

Max Borders conducted a very enlightening interview with former Marine Sergeant and syndicated news reporter J.D. Johannes, with the results posted at Tech Central Station.

An excerpt:

Borders: Nobody is going to want to read the story about the soldiers who were in the dessert getting sunburned. But what other kinds of things will they want to read about and that the mainstream media is missing?

Johannes: The daily successes. The Marines would joke about this. Their MOS [military operation specialty] was in 0311 or 0352 is 0350 as in infantry police officer. You gather Intel. You set up ambush and bait-and-kill operations. You track down a bad guy when they were bringing in a bad guy every other day. Finding a weapons cache every other day in the area... But those weren't the things making the headlines.

Capturing a wanted, low-level terrorist in Amiriya is a big success in that area. Would there ever be a story on it? No. One reason is there wasn't a reporter there when the individual was captured. Even though there was a compelling story in how they gathered the Intel, tracked the person, conducted a raid on the suspect's home, captured them, etc. A big success not covered in the media. What is covered is a car bombing in Baghdad. What happens on aggregate is you get a distorted view of the war that shows only car bombings and few successes, when there are successes every day -- little successes that add up.

Borders: So it sounds to me like this phenonomenon is a mix of an urge to find "real" stories -- something that can actually get into print -- and reporters' ideological baggage. Do you believe that objectivity in journalism is even possible with those kinds of dual pressures on journalists?

Johannes: Journalists are human beings. I mean, we come into everything with our own personal views, which are formed by our experiences; how we're brought up, the way we view things. It's impossible to say that people can be blank slates.

One of the biggest flaws in the media -- and I wouldn't exactly always put it on individual reporters themselves -- the problem is in the structure of the overall media coverage. You just have a handful of reporters covering a major conflict in a large country. The pressure comes in the various complexities of covering Iraq.

Case in point: I get a call (about a month or two ago) from a TV news director who had known what I had done in Iraq. He was hoping I was still there so he could hire me to go out and do what I had done in the past because there was a reserve unit from their area being deployed. But the parent affiliate said: "nope, we don't leave the Fortified Hotel -- ever." So a lot of the employers aren't willing to bear the risk. And that is the structural program that really tilts the war.

Also, and this is probably the most disturbing part, many journalists have not figured out that they're being targeted by the enemy on purpose to help shape the coverage of the war. The insurgents don't want the reporters out and about running around. They're completely satisfied with the "balcony" report and some video shot by a stringer of the daily car bomb. That's the message that the insurgents want to get out. They don't realize that warfare is both the kinetic and non-kinetic. And, therefore, they miss how they're being played by the insurgents. I wish more reporters realized that.

Me too. Go read the whole thing.

(Via Instapundit)

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