BURST! Media released a study on May 18, 2005 revealing the use of the internet compared to other media sources. The study found that individuals were using the internet up to 30% more than other media sources. The Pew Research Center found that more individuals in the 20 – 34 year old age demographic are going to the internet for news, rather than depending upon newspapers and broadcast news. The sudden surge in the popularity of the internet raises many questions, questions that traditional news outlets haven’t been quick to answer.
In April of 2005, 300,000 protestors marched the streets of Baghdad to protest Operation Iraqi Freedom and the U.S occupation of Iraq. A typical television news watcher did not see this coverage on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, or FOX News. Newspapers in the United States didn’t cover this tremendous event. In fact, if it wasn’t for the internet, many Americans would not have known this event had taken place. Many still do not. Bloggers, however, found this story on International news websites and the story began to circulate. What is wrong with the media in the United States when an event like this does not garner press? If the situation had been reversed and 300,000 Iraqi individuals were protesting the insurgents currently fighting a civil war in Iraq, this story would have been front page news.
It is often said that the media in America is liberal. This claim has been made by those conservatives in the media, such as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter. However, the coverage of the war in Iraq paints a different picture, one of nationalism. Arguments using the impact of the media in the Vietnam War are given when the media is questioned about the lack of accurate coverage of the war in Iraq and with pre-packaged news packages airing on television stations all over the country, one questions whether the U.S mainstream media borders on serving propaganda as a war tactic and to garner support for the war in Iraq.
An example of irresponsibility in the media comes with the Terri Schiavo case. For approximately three weeks, television news broadcasts and newspapers ran extended coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, often times over-saturating it. It was then made into a political issue, dividing the conservative right against the liberal left. Mainstream media irresponsibly aired many hours of footage of a handful of protestors outside of a hospice center in Florida. Although, through polls, it was determined that the majority of Americans supported the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, the media had created a culture war between the right-to-die groups and the pro-life groups. Strangely, protests with less than 1,000 individuals made the news multiple times a day, but a protest against the United States with 300,000 participants did not.
Internet news services offer a look at news as it happens, with news stories being available almost immediately. Internet news services allow perspectives outside of the Pro-USA media flooding the United States everyday, even from “liberal” channels, by making available news information from countries across the world. Bloggers are able to communicate this information in circles equivalent to the water cooler in a corporate office. Another element added to the war on the media is the content of blogs. Blogger.com, a free blogger service, holds the personal memoirs of many Iraqi citizens and American soldiers currently fighting in Iraq. Without being filtered through the channels of advertisers, corporations, editors, and producers, real people living in Iraq can share their experiences fighting in this war. Or it was until the military stepped in. Colby Ruzzel had a blog called My War which chronicled his experience serving in Mosul. Ruzzel’s blog was getting over 1,000 visitors a day. Once his commanders found his identity, he was ordered to have his blog entries reviewed before he was allowed to publish them on the web. Although the military states that this is done to prevent sensitive information being publish and giving their enemy an advantage, many soldiers – now discharged- claim it is an effort to suppress the reality of the war in Iraq.
With the many examples of the mainstream media letting down its viewers today, a surge in internet use was inevitable. When will the mainstream media start taking responsibility and find its journalistic integrity? An easy answer is not during a time of war. In the documentary, Weapons of Mass Deception, Danny Schechter examines the media coverage of the war in Iraq. In this documentary, veteran war correspondents speaking candidly about the media in Baghdad, a position that networks paid approximately $5,000.00 per reporter. Also examined were journalists embedded with military personnel in Iraq. A campaign created by a public relations firm to garner support to the war and give the soldiers in Iraq a face.
The direction that the mainstream media has taken puts into question journalistic ethics. Does one report the news honestly or does one cater to the big business behind the mainstream media? The answer, generally speaking, is an easy one; however, the pressure to create a myth during war is far too great for any organization to ignore. Not only are news organizations dealing with pressures from the current administration, but they are battling the ghosts of the past. Bobbi Garcia, a managing editor for an independent news magazine, states, “The news is the news. It just depends on how you spin it. No one wants to be the news organization that cracked. No one wants to be blamed for sleeping with the enemy. Vietnam haunts news agencies. U.S Media produces watered down news because of this. And because of the size of our “enemy.” Our “enemy” doesn’t simply live in Iraq, there are terror cells every where. News isn’t about news anymore, it is about business.”
In this war, the best war coverage has not come from big networks; it has come from the corporate-free blogger.