Thursday, March 27, 2003
David Carr considers the less traditional news sources covering the Iraq war.
When America went to war last week, the luminaries of the news media, including ABC's Ted Koppel and CNN's Wolf Blitzer, were there among the troops as might be expected. But so were six reporters and photographers working for People magazine.
The representatives from People are not the only unlikely volunteers who signed up to cover armed conflict at close range. Among the more than 500 journalists who are ensconced with various units of the United States military, there is a reporter from Engineering News-Record, a weekly trade publication owned by the McGraw-Hill Companies, traveling with the Army's 130th Engineering Brigade. The Hong Kong bureau chief of Business Week is now with the Third Infantry Division and Rolling Stone's correspondent is deep in Iraq with the First Marine Division.
Even news media outlets that did not fill one of the designated slots have devoted significant coverage to the war, including MTV, which set aside videos from Eminem and 50 Cent to go live with four hours of programming when the war started. It is now providing hourly updates on the campaign's progress.
This is something I've been puzzling over myself. Every now and then when I check my Feedreader program (which Tim Dunlop introduced me to), in the Moreover entertainment news feed there's some war-related item which usually comes from MTV. It's a little disconcerting, to be sure.
So what are People and MTV doing there?
Given People's weekly circulation of 3.63 million and its emphasis on the human element of the story, the Pentagon was happy to open the door for People's journalists. Magazines like People and cable networks like MTV reach large audiences that might not be regularly reading daily newspapers or watching continuous cable news.
"It is a recognition that not everyone gets their news from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal," Bryan G. Whitman, deputy assistant secretary for media operations for the Pentagon, said. "We consciously looked at those news organizations that have reach and impact and provided them with the greatest possible opportunities."
A Pentagon spokesman said via email: "Each of them reach a different audience. Our goal was to dominate the information market and to counter the lies, deception and misinformation of the Iraqi regime."
Right on. No sense making the folks back home swallow Iraqi bullshit when we can feed them our own equally good bullshit instead...