In his Memorial Day column, "The Media Equation: The Wars We Choose to Ignore," media columnist David Carr pondered why the media was ignoring the Iraq War. Carr didn't consider that the lack of bad news out of Iraq of late might be a factor. Instead he quoted Times Executive Editor Bill Keller basically blaming readers, saying that the public, preoccupied with paying $4 for gasoline or avoiding foreclosure, had Iraq fatigue.Keller proudly stated that the Times has stayed on the Iraq story anyway. But has it?
I asked Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, how a war that had cost thousands of lives and over $1 trillion was losing news salience.
"There is a cold and sad calculation that readers/viewers aren't that interested in the war, whether because they are preoccupied with paying $4 for a gallon of gas and avoiding foreclosure, or because they have Iraq fatigue," he wrote in an e-mail message, adding that The Times stays on the story as part of an implied contract with its readers.
Hmm. Perhaps one reason Times' readers be "preoccupied" with high gas prices or the mortgage "crisis" is that the Times has been trumpeting those stories on a regular basis on the front page.
From April 27 through May 27,a search of both web and hard copy archives found that the Times devoted four front-page stories to high gas prices and three to mortgages. During the same period, the Times ran a total of six front-page stories on Iraq, one of which was about wasteful Pentagon spending, another about the notorious contractor Blackwater making a comeback. Both were negative. Only two of the six stories provided details on how the war was going, taking a mostly positive view. The paper also ran two stories on Afghanistan.