Newsflash: TV Coverage of War Was ?Dumbed Down?

| May 30, 2003

During the recent war on Iraq, a much larger percentage of Americans turned to television than newspapers to learn about U.S. military advances. On the off chance that they turned to multiple news sources covering the war, many couldn?t help but notice some dissonance between the rosy picture painted by the TV networks and the stories being told from the front lines by embedded newspaper reporters. ?The war they saw, or thought they saw, on TV was meticulously planned, flawlessly executed?and not a single member of the armed forces has a complaint or a problem,? says Ron Martz, military-affairs reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a recent essay for Editor & Publisher. Some readers were upset to read Martz writing about bloody street fighting in parts of Baghdad, while they were watching jubilant Iraqis celebrate the fall of Saddam on Fox News. As Martz, an ex-Marine, filed reports about the realities of what he saw on the ground??a war that was confusing and chaotic, as are all wars??angry emails poured in questioning his patriotism, his ancestry, even his sexuality. One reader suggested he get a job with Al-Jazeera. Another suggested he ?start watching more Fox TV to get an unbiased view of the war.? Martz says a friend recently suggested that TV has dumbed down American news audiences, lowering the collective IQ. He?s beginning to believe she?s right. ?What they seemed to want from this war was for the coverage to fit their own biases and preconceived notions. No other views were tolerated. And TV seems in large part to have given them exactly what they wanted.?
?Nick Garafola

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