Monday, October 06, 2003

IS THIS A TIPPING POINT?

Negative story, negative story, negative story: My translation of any three randomly-picked news media stories about Iraq over the past couple of months. Except for the past couple of days.

No Weapons Doesn't Mean No Threat, from the Washington Post is an example of a few articles that are creeping in from sources that have almost exclusively been negative. Here's another.

Is this the beginning of the end for all the negativity? I still believe that many senior editors can't get the words "Viet Nam" out of their heads and will continue to report mostly negative stories about Iraq no matter what. But public sentiment seems disinterested and disbelieving of the idea that Iraq is the new Viet Nam.

And many will continue to report any story that makes the Bush administration look bad. "I hate George Bush" is still a strong motivating influence for many writers and editors.

But some people are angry enough about it that (if you check things like Nielsen ratings) many have tuned out from NBC, CBS and ABC, as well as CNN. And many have cancelled their newspaper subscriptions. The only winner is Fox News, which gets labeled as "conservative" for reporting boths sides of most stories, rather than taking a strongly partisan view as the others typically take. Fox has seen its viewership rise steadily since the first troops entered Iraq. I had to crack up a few weeks ago when I saw a CNN ad on Fox News. I kid you not. Fox must've laughed their asses off cashing that check.

Of course, another big difference these days is any idiot with an Internet connection can write whatever he/she feels like writing and, oddly enough, there are some (e.g., Matt Drudge, with 7.5 million hits a day) who have a readership number far higher than the New York Times. This is especially galling to many politicians because they have carefully manipulated and orchestrated news over the years through willing complicity (and duplicity) of the major media outlets.

Now, the game has changed and every pundit gets his words dissected within minutes of their becoming public. And the "old guard" really doesn't like the new paradigm. Tough shit.


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