Media Downplays Heroes, Overplays Atrocities
Jennifer Harper points to a new study showing that a “bad news bias” has led the national media to overemphasize negative stories about the military while providing virtually no coverage of heroes and other positive stories.
Broadcasters continue to target the military, according to an analysis by the Media Research Center (MRC), which has detected a pronounced “bad news bias.”
From May 17 to June 7, NBC, CBS and ABC aired 99 stories — or 3½ hours of negative news coverage — on the ongoing investigation of U.S. Marines in the death of Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November.
However, from September 2001 to June 2006, the same networks broadcast just 52 minutes of positive coverage of the nation’s top military heroes, such as U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, who died while protecting 100 fellow soldiers during the battle for Baghdad’s airport in April 2003, earning the Medal of Honor. Nineteen other men received high honors — the Air Force and Navy crosses and the Distinguished Service Cross — yet 14 were never mentioned on the air, according to the MRC analysis. “None of those positive stories have interested the networks as much as news of possible military misconduct,” noted Rich Noyes, who led the research.
This point, which has been made here and elsewhere many times before, deserves re-emphasis. While I disagree with Harper’s implied premise that stories of institutional wrongdoing should be balanced out with reporting on all the good things that are going on–that’s just not how reporting works, even at the Washington Times–it’s undoubtedly true that the focus on “news” (defined as unusual, preferably exciting, events) gives a faulty impression. (See my recent TCS piece “Panoptic War” for one recent analysis of this idea.)
Still, it’s sad that genuine heroes like Paul Smith and the anonymous DSC/AFC/NC recepients are total unknowns. It was certainly not that way in past wars, even unpopular ones like Vietnam, when men who “won” the Medal of Honor and even Silver Stars often rode those credentials to high political office. Those were simply different times.