Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Relax. It's not nearly as bad here as it looks on TV."

Writing in the New York Times, John Tierney offers his thoughts on the media's obsession with covering suicide bombings in Iraq, while ignoring nearly everything else going on in that country:

During the past decade I've seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of articles on suicide bombings, but I read to the end of just three of them, and that was only because I wrote them. Those bombings occurred in Baghdad and Kurdistan during the summer of 2003, when they were still a novel phenomenon in Iraq, but even then there was really nothing new to say.

As I intruded on grieving relatives at the scene and wounded survivors in hospitals, I didn't see what good I was doing for anyone except the planners of the attack. It was a horrifying story, but it was same story as every other suicide bombing, from the descriptions of the carnage and the mayhem to the quotes from eyewitnesses and the authorities.

When the other reporters and I finished filling our notebooks, we wondered morosely if we could have done a service to everyone - victims, mourners, readers - by reducing the story to a box score. We all knew the template: number of victims, size of the crater, distance debris had been hurled, height of smoke plume, range at which explosion was heard.

There was no larger lesson except that some insurgents were willing and able to kill civilians, which was not news. We were dutifully presenting as accurate an image as we could of one atrocity, but we knew we were contributing to a distorted picture of life for Iraqis.

The standard advice to newly arrived journalists at that time was: "Relax. It's not nearly as bad here as it looks on TV."

Please read the rest:

Bombs Bursting on Air


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