15 Stories They've Already Bungled
Mitchell on the War Coverage So Far
By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher - March 27, 2003
NEW YORK -- Opinion
The war is only a week old and already the media has gotten at least 15
stories wrong or misreported a sliver of fact into a major event.
Television news programs, of course, have been the prime culprits.
Newspapers, while they have often gone along for the ride, have been much
more nuanced and careful. Newspaper coverage has not been faultless, as
photos and headlines often seem shock-and-awe-struck but, compared with
TV, newspapers seem more editorially -- and mentally -- balanced. Some
have actually displayed a degree of skepticism of claims made by the
military and the White House -- what used to be known as "journalism."
On Monday, I received a call from a producer of a major network's prime
time news program. He said they wanted to interview me for a piece on how
the public's expectation of a quick victory somehow was too high. "But,"
he hastened to add, "we don't want to focus on the media." I asked him
where he thought the public might have received the information that
falsely raised their hopes. In chat rooms, perhaps? The problem, I
suggested, is that most of the TV commentators on the home front appear
to be just as "embedded" with the military as the far braver reporters
now in the Iraqi desert.
Surely this is a bipartisan issue. While many on the antiwar side
complain about the media's alleged "pro-war bias," those who support the
war, and the Bush administration itself, have also been ill served by
overly-positive coverage that now has millions of Americans reeling from
Here, then, is a list of stories that have been widely misreported or
poorly reported so far:
1. Saddam may well have been killed in the first night's surprise attack
2. Even if he wasn't killed, Iraqi command and control was no doubt
"decapitated" (March 22).
3. Umm Qasr has been taken (March 22).
4. Most Iraqis soldiers will not fight for Saddam and instead are
surrendering in droves (March 22).
5. Iraqi citizens are greeting Americans as liberators (March 22).
6. An entire division of 8,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered en masse near
Basra (March 23).
7. Several Scud missiles, banned weapons, have been launched against U.S.
forces in Kuwait (March 23).
8. Saddam's Fedayeen militia are few in number and do not pose a serious
threat (March 23).
9. Basra has been taken (March 23).
10. Umm Qasr has been taken (March 23).
11. A captured chemical plant likely produced chemical weapons (March
12. Nassiriya has been taken (March 23).
13. Umm Qasr has been taken (March 24).
14. The Iraqi government faces a "major rebellion" of anti-Saddam
citizens in Basra (March 24).
15. A convoy of 1,000 Iraqi vehicles and Republican Guards are speeding
south from Baghdad to engage U.S. troops (March 25).
Source: Editor & Publisher Online