Janet's Conner

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

PENTAGON VS. THE PRESS



The Pentagon is taking bids for a 2-year, $20M contract to read newspapers and watch TV news and rate the daily coverage of the war in Iraq. The "tone," "key themes," and "messages" of coverage in the U.S. and the Arab world are to be evaluated as positive, negative or neutral.

Chicago Tribune
September 9, 2006

This project has the aroma of a public-relations boondoggle.

Pentagon brass are understandably frustrated that the media do not always report the war's daily event in positive terms. "They want [war news] to be received by audiences as it is transmitted" by the military, as one public relations expert explained to the the Washington Post, "but they don't like how it turns out." That happens. President Abraham Linclon was notoriously frustrated and angered by coverage of the Civil War, including coverage by this newspaper.

***What kind of positive news can one report covering a war, especially this one in Iraq? It has turned into a civil war! If the reporters were to tell the American people that everything was fine in Iraq, the American people wouldn't listen anymore. Because they know that isn't what's happening. If the Pentagon tries to change the way that the news is reported, they are going to be in for a huge disappointment. It will only be perceived as "more lies" coming for this administration!

It's apparent that the Pentagon has already been doing some analyzing of press coverage. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complained in a recent speech that "a database search of America's leading newspapers" found 10 times more coverage of a soldier who had been punished for misconduct than of the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the war on terror.

***That's because there are a lot of people out there that want to know why our troops' are doing some of the things that they are doing. They are confused! Are the troops doing it because they have been deployed too much? Are they doing it because the military is sending the troops with PTSD back into battle while on drugs? Are they breaking down or is it just a few bad apples? They are inquisitive because they are getting twenty different answers. They are trying to figure it out themselves!

Drawing conclusions from the number of hits in a Google search (if that's how the Pentagon did it) is an inexact science.

But we have to ask---as an editorial page that has supported the Iraq war effort---why is the Pentagon doing this?

That $20M would be far better spent on fighting the Iraq insurgency than on fighting the news media.




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