Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Reporter speaks out about Iraq War coverage

After veteran reporter Sig Christenson of the San Antonio Express-News heard U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Spence (R-Ind.) say that the Surge was working but Americans don't realaize it because the media aren't reporting it, the reporter responded with an insightful essay for nieman

"Everybody knows there’s a war on in Iraq," he writes. "What they don’t realize is there are actually four wars – the one to defeat insurgents and terrorists, another to win support for America’s occupation among a majority of Iraqis and yet a third for hearts and minds among the president’s supporters in the United States. The fourth is a war for reporters and editors: It is to find and report the truth while staying alive to file another day in Iraq."

After a heavily guarded tour of a Baghdad neighborhood with McCain in April, Spence compared it to "a normal outdoor market in Indiana."

Hardly, Christenson writes.

"Problems are bigger than the insurgency," he says. "Surge or no surge, they will continue until Iraqi security forces can hold the ground U.S. troops have taken. That is the truth. You can’t put lipstick on this little pig and pass it off as life in Indiana."

Christsenson concedes problems, such as too few journalists there.

"Few regional newspapers like mine send teams to the war zone," he says. "The obvious reasons for not going are the cost and danger, but shrinking newsroom staffs and an increasing focus on local news factor into the equation.

"TV news crews typically have more money than newspapers but seem rudderless when it comes to ethically reporting a story. That’s the way it is in 2007."

He scoffs at the wisdom of censoring or otherwise controlling the press.

"The last time we saw anyone pass off fantasy for reality and think they wouldn’t get caught was in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans," he says. "Then, as now, politicians acted as if the rest of us were idiots, as if we would believe their words over the very stunning images that filled our television screens.

"Imagine if the government restricted the efforts of journalists to gather the news there," he continues. "The entire country might have applauded as Bush gave Brownie a medal. This is what is at stake in Iraq. America is at a crossroads there and it’s up to journalists and their bosses to roll the dice, spend the money and tell the story. Think of Iraq as Katrina squared."

For his whole piece, go to --