by Virginia Postrel • Mar 31, 2003 at 11:55 pm
Chuck Freund has a typically astute piece on the press and the war. (Via Matt Welch.) I would add another point: Each national press corps seems to have its own pathology. For the American press, it's the giant campaign swing, as applicable in military campaigns as in electoral contests. First the front-runner can't lose. Then he's a total disaster. Ditto the U.S. military in Iraq. The audience, reporters seem to believe, will reward drama.
The British press corps serves its market, in turn, by passing on every rumor someone tells a reporter in a bar. The result are lots of juicy stories, some of them true. As a former U.S. news editor told her editors after 9/11, when asked why her paper wasn't getting the great stories in the British press, "They're great stories. But they aren't true."
Then, of course, there are the Arab TV services, with their tabloid penchant for blood, guts, and heavy-handed emotion. They're reminiscent of the old-time U.S. press, when big-city journalism was a new industry.
All pathologies, all market-driven, but all mostly self-correcting. Even Al-Jazeera will eventually grow up. Or at least Chuck, who's wise in the ways of both the media and the Middle East, seems to think so. You should hear what he says about Arabic satellite music videos...
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