Wednesday, 9 July 2008

This can’t be happening...

. . . so it isn’t.

In news from Doonesbury, a TV reporter has to spin like crazy in order to report progress in Iraq. The strips below are from this week.

In news from the real world, correspondents find that TV networks don’t want to hear so much about progress. From The New York Times:
According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of the war in Iraq has been “massively scaled back this year.” Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq war coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The “CBS Evening News” has devoted the fewest minutes to the war, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC’s “World News” and 74 minutes on “NBC Nightly News.” (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)

CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed. [...]

Interviews with executives and correspondents at television news networks suggested that while the CBS cutbacks are the most extensive to date in Baghdad, many journalists shared varying levels of frustration about placing war stories onto newscasts. “I’ve never met a journalist who hasn’t been frustrated about getting his or her stories on the air,” said Terry McCarthy, an ABC News correspondent in Baghdad.

By telephone from Baghdad, Mr. McCarthy said he was not as busy as he was a year ago. A decline in the relative amount of violence “is taking the urgency out” of some of the coverage, he said. Still, he gets on ABC’s “World News” and other programs with stories, including one on Friday about American gains in northern Iraq.

Anita McNaught, a correspondent for the Fox News Channel, agreed. “The violence itself is not the story anymore,” she said. She counted eight reports she had filed since arriving in Baghdad six weeks ago, noting that cable news channels like Fox News and CNN have considerably more time to fill with news than the networks. [...]

On “The Daily Show,” [Lara] Logan [chief foreign correspondent CBS News] echoed the comments of other journalists when she said that many Americans seem uninterested in the wars now. Mr. McCarthy said that when he is in the United States, bringing up Baghdad at a dinner party “is like a conversation killer.”
Complete story here. It seems in the real world that Doonesbury’s TV reporter might do better business by spinning bad news instead of good.

Of course the smartest spin is the cartoonist spinning good news as bad by caricaturing a journalist as spinning bad news as good . It makes me dizzy.

UPDATE: Oops, forgot to make the strips enlargeable - fixed now, just click on them.

UPDATE 2.5: Dept. of Internet Rumour - from The Patriot Room, an unverified story about ABC News asking sixty US soldiers in Iraq who they’ll vote for. Fifty-four say McCain, but the subsequent broadcast only included three of the GIs supporting Obama and two supporting Clinton. Via But I Am A Liberal and The Homesick American. The ABC News item this refers to is here. It was broadcast April 7th 2008.

ABC News journalist Martha Raddatz denies the story. Her response is to be found on, and points to at least one aspect of the rumour which is incorrect: she wasn’t accompanying McCain on the trip, but Dick Cheney. Another doubtful aspect is that the person starting the rumour seems impossible to locate. A more complete version of her denial is here

Now this story from ABC News is not doing Obama any favours. Broadcast on July 11th 2008, it’s also by Martha Raddatz. The headline: Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal Plan May Prove Difficult. The sub-head: US commanders in Iraq warn of security dangers, see logistical nightmare. Read it all and watch video here. While the soldiers interviewed for this piece don’t express overt political preferences, they certainly don’t show any support for Obama’s Iraq policy.

Doonesbury copyright © GB Trudeau

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