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American Journalism Review
Vanishing Iraq Coverage  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   August/September 2008

Vanishing Iraq Coverage   

Vanishing Iraq Coverage

I read your story "Whatever Happened to Iraq?" (June/July) because I am trying to figure out the same thing. Why did the news from Iraq disappear about the time the situation here started to change? I think the problem might be that the American success in Iraq doesn't fit the earlier defeat-and-destruction narrative that you mention in your story.

I don't think it is a conspiracy, but it is a syndrome. Journalists like stories that fit their narratives. Once they have found a narrative that other journalists consent to, they are loath to seek disconfirming evidence. My complaint is that the lack of news now has frozen American perceptions in the bad old days of 2006. So much has changed since then. I have seen it in my 10 months here; Marines who were here in 2005 and 2006 tell me that the change is simply unbelievable, which may be why journalists don't believe it.

The fantastic story, which will probably be told by historians and not current journalists, is that we faced down an insurgency in the center of the Middle East, in a place (Anbar) that al Qaeda had declared the center of its new caliphate. We have driven them to virtual extinction in the course of about a year and did what the pundits and many American politicians said could not be done. Why is that not a story?

Instead, it is big news when the odd bomber gets lucky and kills a bunch of civilians. It is a case of journalists truly missing the forest for the trees.

John A. Matel

U.S. Department of State

Western Anbar, Iraq

* * *

Sherry Ricchiardi's article about why the mainstream media have lost interest in Iraq does not take into account three easily verifiable facts: 1) The news out of Iraq has been much more positive since the Republican-led surge started taking effect. 2) Most reporters and editors are Democrats. 3) It's an election year. I look forward to Ricchiardi's follow-up article, the one in which she analyzes the implications of these.

Joshua Dixon


Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch

Sleepy Eye, Minnesota

* * *

I was disappointed that Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay, then with Knight Ridder, were omitted from the list of reporters covering the build-up to the war in Iraq. Strobel and Landay deserved Pulitzers for their aggressive scrutiny of the Bush administration's public relations campaign for the invasion of Iraq.

Their journalism exposed the mendacity behind much of the president's arguments for war. They reminded me and a lot of other young reporters of what can be accomplished through good, old-fashioned shoe leather reporting, research and speaking with credible sources in the bowels of the government.

Gene Roman

New York, New York

Editor's note: AJR paid tribute to Landay and Strobel in "Going It Alone," August/September 2004.



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