Media redeploying over the event horizon from Iraq
posted at 11:06 am on December 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
If nothing else tells you that the Iraq War has been won, the exodus of American television media should confirm it. The broadcast and cable news agencies have stopped staffing regular correspondents in Baghdad, apparently convinced that victory is no news at all (via Instapundit):
Quietly, as the United States presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news, America’s three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq.
“The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations’ ability or appetite to cover it,” said Jane Arraf, a former Baghdad bureau chief for CNN who has remained in Iraq as a contract reporter for The Christian Science Monitor.
Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces.
Except, of course, in Afghanistan, where about 30,000 Americans are stationed, and where until recently no American television network, broadcast or cable, maintained a full-time bureau.
At the same time that news organizations are trimming in Iraq, the television networks are trying to add newspeople in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with expectations that the Obama administration will focus on the conflict there.
This isn’t exactly rocket science. They followed the news into Iraq, and they’re following the news out of Iraq and into Afghanistan. For years, the American media shorted the latter theater because little of consequence appeared to be happening, after the free elections and the apparent retreat of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Only after an ill-advised truce with Pakistan reinvigorated the terrorist alliance and some NATO blunders on strategy allowed the Taliban to regroup in Helmand did the news media start looking at Afghanistan as a story.
Violence still occurs in Iraq, but on a much smaller scale, and the attacks have much less potency for destabilizing the nation. Now the story in Iraq won’t bleed as much as it will feature debates on policy and security, as well as electoral issues on national and provincial scales. That’s news, too, but of apparently less interest to the American media, and in fairness to Americans in general. We’re rather famously disinterested in the internal politics of friends and foes alike, and when we do get coverage from our own media, it’s usually superficial at best.
However, Iraq will continue to be a major issue in American foreign policy as Barack Obama decides whether, how, and to what extent we should extricate American troops from the nation. We should have reporters on the ground to inform Americans of the conditions on the ground and the impact our decisions will have. It’s certainly a more newsworthy place than Rome, London, Paris, Berlin, or Madrid on most days in terms of foreign-policy decisions, but I doubt these same news organizations will be rushing to close down those bureaus.