Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Can you learn much from the TV?

Can you learn much from the evening news on commercial, broadcast networks? Yesterday, Baghdad was slammed by bombings. It was not a one-day violence event but, in fact, the latest in a wave of violence that includes a Friday night/Saturday morning slaughter of 24 people -- the majority of the men murdered were Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons Of Iraq") -- and the Sunday bombings targeting embassies in Baghdad. With that in mind, how did the networks do?

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer found the anchor broadcasting from West Virginia which was both the focus of the first 13 minutes of the show (minus commercials) and also the backdrop as Diane did her set ups in front of a stream. After devoting over 13 minutes to the coal mining disaster, Diane noted:

And in Iraq, a day of devastating violence across Baghdad. A series of seven bombs tore through apartment buildings in the city, another blew up a market, killing at least 50 people, injuring more than 180. US and Iraqi officials blamed today's bombing spree on al Qaeda insurgents, saying the attacks were carefully coordinated and took time to plan with terrorists renting apartments to plant the bombs.

One competitor got to the news a little quicker. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams spent eight minutes on West Virginia. After which, Brian noted:

We turn to other news overseas tonight, this has been an another violent day in Iraq and this time there was a new tactic: Bombs planted in apartments. At least seven bombs exploded at apartment buildings across Baghdad, another one exploded at a market. In all, at least 50 people were killed, nearly 200 wounded. This was the latest in what many worry was a new wave of violence in the capital city.

Those watching the broadcast were treated to Richard Engel sharing with Andrea Mitchell that Hamid Karzai "has been acting very erotic." (He meant erratic but he said erotic. Cue Madonna, "Erotic, erotic, put your hands all over my body . . .") At least it was amusing. The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric was just smug as Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez filled in for Katie. From the start of the broadcast, the show spent over 12 minutes (minus commercials) on West Virginia. After which viewers were treated to a White House story with CBS billed as "international news" (and labeled as such on the screen).

Viewers may have thought Harry and Maggie were finally about to get to Iraq when Rodriguez declared, "On the war front . . ."; however, that was just an excuse for Mags to play Perez Hilton and talk about the rumors Karzai may be on drugs. Then it was time for the Catholic Church . . . The scandal, right? No. CBS News was kissing ass and wasting news time on a non-news story. The Church applies pressure, CBS News falls in line. With only two minutes left, it became clear that the broadcast might not get to Iraq. Clear? Harry Smith thought what the country really needed was an overly wordy thoughts and feelings commentary from him: "Spring is a time of renewal." Around the time he got to "raw, wonderful beautiful place," you started wishing the group counselor would step in and tell him he'd spent enough time on highs and lows and needed to let the next person speak. When Katie's on vacation, CBS Evening News apparently confuses itself with The Morning Show.

None of the three shows treated Iraq as more than a headline and CBS Evening News didn't even offer it that. On The News Hour (PBS -- link has video, audio and transcript), Gwen Ifill spoke with the New York Times' Rod Nordland about yesterday's violence for nearly six minutes and we'll note this section.

ROD NORDLAND: But, in these spectacular attacks, the last five days have been pretty out of the ordinary. Today, we had a lot of Shiite civilian targets attacked. The day before yesterday was embassy targets. Five days ago, it was a bunch of Sons of Iraq militiamen who were executed. And it's really a concerted campaign. And the most striking thing about it is that they have been able to attack all over the city in widely different neighborhoods in a very concerted fashion.

GWEN IFILL: When you say they, are we talking about a certain group that is responsible for all of this, a coordinated attack? Or is it just breaking out all over?

ROD NORDLAND: No, I think it's probably al-Qaida. And I think most people would agree with that, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia or in Iraq. They haven't claimed credit yet. Sometimes, they do. Sometimes, they don't. If it serves their interest, they may not even claim credit. But it certainly has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaida attack. And there's no points in attacks like this unless somebody thinks that you did it. And that's what everybody thinks here, and with -- with pretty good reason, I think.

GWEN IFILL: Except, the difference this time, at least in these latest attacks today, seems to be that they were targeting civilians.

ROD NORDLAND: Yes, what they were doing is just shifting their tactics, which we have seen them do now for the last year. They will -- they will attack one sort of target. And then, when they see that that kind of target is well-defended, they will shift to another one. It is true, for quite a long time, they have avoided attacking purely civilian targets, attacking instead the security forces or government ministries and so on. And this is the first time they have attacked a purely civilian target in, I think, pretty much a year. But they have done it before. And nobody was expecting it. The last thing they expected were bombs to be placed in people's apartment buildings. And it's just, you know, other targets are well enough defended that they shift their tactics and choose something that isn't.

If you were hoping for any thing of depth, you had to turn to PBS. If you were satisfied with total silence, CBS News 'informed you.' Those were the two extremes with ABC and NBC falling in the middle.

On today's Morning Edition (NPR), Quil Lawrence spoke with Steve Inskeep and had a few points we'll include in the snapshot today including on how the coalition-forming continues in Baghdad despite the violence. March 7th, elections were held. Friday and Saturday, another round of elections were held -- this to determine whom the Sadr bloc should back. Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10$ of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left). Following the invasion, Ayad Allawi became Iraq's first prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari became the second and Nouri al-Maliki became the third. It's a little more complicated.

Nouri wasn't wanted, Nouri wasn't chosen. Following the December 2005 elections, coalition building took place and the choice for prime minister was al-Jaafari. But the US government refused to allow him to continue as prime minister. The Bush administration was adamant that he would not continue and faulted him for, among other things, delays in the privatization of Iraq's oil. Though the US had no Parliamentary vote, they got their way and Nouri became the prime minister. al-Jaafari had won the vote with the backing of al-Sadr's bloc, just as he won the vote that took place this weekend. The vote can be seen as (a) a show of support for al-Jaafari whom Sadarists have long supported and (b) a message to the US government.

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan has several events in New York beginning tomorrow:


10:30 a.m. - Press conference will be

held at the St. Francis of Assisi church

1031 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY. (Room 104 - School Building)

12:00 Noon - Pot Luck luncheon for press conference attendees, committee members and local peace group leaders - Location: St. Francis church hall

3 - 5 pm - Book signing at River Read Books, Court St. Binghamton

7 - 9 pm - Presentation at Binghamton University - Lecture Hall 8 - Open to Community

For more information on Binghamton events contact: George McAnaman -


Scranton, PA

12 NOON to 2PM

Email Jack Gilroy for details:

Friday Evening:

7 p.m. – Words & Music for Peace – First United Methodist Church, 53 McKinley Avenue, Endicott, NY. This event will include a talk by Cindy with Q & A, folk music by Janet Burgan and a performance by Expressive Drumming. The community is invited. Refreshments and Book signing


Ithaca Events:

7 - 9 Evening Event - Women's Community Building - 100 W. Seneca St. Open to the Public

For more information on Ithaca events Contact:

Bob Nape - 607-592-7692 or

Andrea Levine - 908-461-8491


Listen to the Soapbox

Sunday's guest, available 2pm Pacific Time is

hero: Daniel Ellsberg


Read Cindy's New Blog:
Take This Empire and Shove It!

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