From April 1 to June 29 of this year, coverage of the war in Iraq was down across the board, as compared to the first three months of the year. That’s according to the latest quarterly report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which has been tracking which stories get the most play in the national media.
“In all, the policy debate [over Iraq] filled 7% of the space or airtime in the quarter,” the study says, “down from 12% in the three months of the year.”
But not all war coverage, even when it’s down, is created equal. Apparently, just as in the first quarter of the year, Fox News only featured about half as much coverage of the war—eight percent—as CNN, which clocked in eighteen percent, and MSNBC, which filled up fifteen percent of its news coverage with stories about Iraq.
Is that enough? I would say no, but I come here not to criticize coverage of Iraq, but something else the study has pointed out: that six years after 9/11 “changed everything” and woke Americans up to how international events effect us here at home, we’re still not getting much international news. For the first six months of 2007, cable television dedicated only four percent of its coverage to non-U.S. international news. Network TV did better at seven percent, newspapers weighed in with a paltry twelve percent, while “Online” (which includes cnn.com, Google News, Yahoo! News, AOL), had them all beat, devoting a full thirty-one percent to non-U.S. international news. Taken together, PEJ estimates that only ten percent of the total news broadcast and printed in the first six months of the year dealt with non-U.S. related international news.
As the 9/11 attacks showed, America isn’t an island, and the general ignorance of the American public about events abroad that are directly related to American interests and security is dangerous. Assigning editors and television producers still apparently haven’t woken up to this fact. Given all that’s happened during the first decade of the twenty-first century, I’d love for someone high atop the media food chain to explain this to me. Any takers?