Times Can't Figure Out Why Media's Ignoring Iraq Lately

Could the surge and resulting decline in the fatality rate for U.S. troops have something to do with it? The Times gives five other reasons before even making the suggestion.

In "The War Endures, But Where's The Media?" media reporter Richard Perez-Pena speculated (based on reports from the Pew Research Center for the Press and the Project for Excellence in Journalism) why coverage of the war has fallen precipitously from last summer - which just happened to be the same period when the troop surge kicked in and U.S. fatalities began to decline.

Yet while Perez-Pena's story on the front of Monday's Business section listed five possible reasons for the decline of coverage in paragraph four, none suggested the troop increase and resulting casualty decline as a factor. Yet it makes sense that the press, which has been emphasizing negative war news for five years, would draw back when there was not as much bloodshed to cover.

In the second party of the story, Perez-Pena finally brought up the decline in the death rate for U.S. soldiers, although he failed to credit the troop surge.

The policy debate in Washington that dominated last year's Iraq coverage has almost disappeared from the news. And reporting on events in Iraq has fallen by more than two-thirds from a year ago.

The drop accelerated with a sharp decline in violence in Iraq that began at the end of last summer. The last six months have been safer for American troops than any comparable period since the war began, with about 33 killed each month, compared with about 91 a month over the previous year.


[Brookings Institution scholar Michael O'Hanlon] argued that Americans who support the war might not have wanted to follow the news when it was bad, and that Americans against the war are less interested now that the news is better. And the presidential candidates, he said, have shown "surprisingly little interest in discussing it in detail."

Many news organizations have fewer people in Iraq than they once did, though no definitive numbers are available. Coalition officials have said that although there were several hundred reporters embedded with military units early in the war, the number has been measured in tens in recent months.

Violence against journalists makes reporting on Iraq costly and difficult; executives of The New York Times have said that the newspaper is spending more than $3 million a year to cover Iraq. The risks have forced news organizations to hire private security forces and Iraqi employees who can go places that Westerners cannot safely explore.