Realize now that this story is written from the perspective of Washington's second newspaper, The Washington Times, owned by the founder of 'The Moonies'.
News anchors glum amid Iraqi jubilation
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published April 10, 2003
Baghdad's jubilation got the cold shoulder from some journalists yesterday.
The press did not question the raising of the American flag over Iwo Jima back in 1945.
But only minutes after President Saddam Hussein's statue toppled before overjoyed Iraqis, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell asked Central Command spokesman U.S. Navy Capt. Frank Thorpe whether it was appropriate for Marine Cpl. Edward Chin to briefly cover the statue's face with a U.S. flag. The act implied the United States already had assumed control of the regime, Miss O'Donnell said.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour made a similar query a short time later.
"We are sensitive to the Iraq culture," Capt. Thorpe told the networks separately. "We are a liberating force, not an occupying force."
Octavia Nasr, CNN's analyst for Middle Eastern news media, called the flag moment "a mistake," and a "shock ... sending a message that the U.S. was there to invade." Shock changed to relief among Arab audiences, she said, once the American flag was replaced by an Iraqi flag.
In an interview later in the day, Cpl. Chin's sister Connie gave her own perspective.
"We got a call saying he was a real hero," she told CNN. "We're so proud of him."
Perspectives also differed yesterday. While Fox News described the Baghdad scene as "filled with hundreds of joyful people," ABC's Peter Jennings' characterized the throng as "a small crowd."
Collective media doubt even affected Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"We shouldn't take away from the jubilation these people feel," he told reporters yesterday, noting the situation presented a historic opportunity for journalists to record the stories of newly liberated Iraqi eyewitnesses.
"Truth ultimately finds its way to people's ear and eyes," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The Media Research Center made light of the skeptical press in an online poll yesterday, asking, "Which journalist do you think is the most glum" after Iraqi cheering started? The poll ranked ABC's Mr. Jennings first with 78 percent of the votes, followed by free-lancer Peter Arnett (17 percent) and CBS' Lara Logan (5 percent.)
The events benefited broadcasters in need of a new plot, however. ABC, NBC and CBS replaced regular programming yesterday with Iraq coverage at 8:45 a.m., ending almost six hours later. CNN is relocating 30 persons to Baghdad to begin reporting without the presence of Iraqi government 'minders.'
The liberation perhaps came just in time. A Pew Research Center poll released yesterday found 39 percent of the respondents said there was "too much coverage" of the war and were "hungry for other news."
Forty percent said they were tired of antiwar coverage, and 36 percent said "ex-military commentary" had received too much attention. Nearly a quarter felt the media were too critical" of the war, though eight in 10 said embedded reporters were "fair and objective."
That new genre of journalists received praise yesterday from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said past wars "could well have been much shorter if there had been journalists embedded with the armed forces."
Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, told the American Society of Newspaper editors that press criticism of war plans had been off the mark, calling the chorus of second-guessers "retired military officers embedded in TV studios."