Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Broadcast News: Who fluffed, who informed last night?

Yesterday, a suicide bombing slammed Baghdad. How did the evening news (broadcast) handle the story?

With mixed results.

The worst was the CBS Evening Lifestyle Section with Erica Hill. Katie Couric was off (she reports from Afghanistan tonight) and Hill filled in to offer such 'hard news' as ear buds harming hearing (take them out for ten minutes on the hour!) "and heads up . . . the hat . . . is making a comeback!" The show opened with Rod Blagojevich's conviction on only one count -- and spent over five minutes on that non-national news story. Iraq, by contrast? 18 seconds.

Erica Hall: al Qaeda is being blamed for one of Baghdad's deadliest attacks in months. A suicide bomber struck today at an Iraqi army recruiting center that was packed with young men. 61 were killed 125 others injured. Some of them were so desperate for work, though, they got back in line after the attack.

61 dead, Hall declared. And that's worth 18 seconds of news time. Hats? By contrast hats received 2 and thirty-five seconds. Hats are back! And that's important! To someone. Doesn't really mean a damn thing but it's lifestyle and CBS Lifestyle News was broadcasting last night.

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer had no filler. Some might question the inclusion of the KFC story (I would) but it was an actual lawsuit (some KFC franchise owners are suing the corporation because there customers want fried chicken not the push for grilled). They also opened with Blagojevich but only spent three minutes and twenty-five seconds on it. They quickly moved to serious news (the Gulf Disaster and the damage that remains via Matt Gutman and then an interview with the White House's chief liar on the subject). "They" is George Stephanopoulos who was filling in for Diane as anchor. For their Baghdad section, he was joined by Martha Raddatz.

George Stephanopoulos: Baghdad was rocked by two deadly bomb attacks today, exactly two weeks before the last US combat troops leave Iraq. It's the kind of carnage we saw constantly when the war was raging. A suicide bomber killed dozens of people at an Iraqi army recruiting station and later a fuel truck bomb killed at least 8. So let's bring in our Martha Raddatz for more on that and clearly, Martha, some are trying to take advantage of this turnover that's coming in just a couple of weeks.

Martha Raddatz: It sure seems that way, George. This was really a horrific bombing. There were Iraqi recruits trying to join the Iraqi army. Thousands of them lined up, they had been there all night, desperate for jobs. Someone walked in, apparently wearing a suicide vest, mingled among all these recruits and blew himself up. The vest was packed with nails. They say as many as 60 were killed, about a hundred injured. And there was also that fuel truck bombing that you mentioned where eight were killed so very, very reminiscent of the early days of the war, George.

George Stephanopoulos: Despite these bombings, no second thoughts by the Americans or the Iraqis.

Martha Raddatz: Well absolutely no second thoughts yet. Of course, American troops are supposed to be out of Iraq completely in 2011, the end of 2011. Only the Iraqis can change that and, I have to tell you, George, most of the people I talk to believe the Iraqis eventually will decide to change that and have many American troops remaining in country.

George Stephanopoulos: Okay, Martha Raddatz, thanks very much.

CBS was lifestyle 'news' and ABC offered actual news but NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams showed why it leads in the ratings. It went with news and it also catered to the viewer in terms of making the stories about the viewers. If something's news, it does effect lives. Brian Williams (and staff) may be folksy at times but viewers are always informed how this (education, for example) effects them. The show is geared to that. It started with the Gulf Disaster making it the only show that didn't lead with Blagojevich. Of the big three, they had the only correspondent in Iraq.

Brian Williams: Now we turn to news from overseas tonight, to Iraq, specifically. A terrible attack with curious timing just as US combat troops are getting ready to pull out. It happened in central Baghdad at an army recruiting station, suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least 57 recruits and soldiers, wounding 123 others. Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Baghdad for us. Richard, good evening.

Richard Engel: Good evening, Brian, this was one of the worst attacks here in months. The recruiting center was exceptionally crowded on this hot morning. Hundreds of people had gathered, some had been waiting for hours, others since last night hoping to find positions in the armed forces. Unemployment is high in this country, there aren't that many jobs available. One of the would-be recruits was actually a suicide bomber. He detonated his vest right in and among the crowds, killing or wounding everyone around him. Iraqi officials say al Qaeda in Iraq was very likely responsible for this attack and that it was timed while Iraqis are already nervous about the withdrawal of American combat troops from this country. Iraqis are wondering will their security forces be strong enough to maintain stability after American combat troops leave? American officials say that even after the combat mission is over, 50,000 American trainers will remain in Iraq but those trainers won't be out on the streets, they won't be providing security, mostly they'll have office jobs . They'll be working with Iraqi army and police to try and plan missions -- not carry them out boot to boot.

Still with broadcast TV but moving to non-commercial PBS. The NewsHour provided Gwen Ifill offering an overview of the events (the bombing, Chris Hill's remarks, etc.) and then Gwen spoke with Margaret Warner who was in Baghdad. Excerpt:

MARGARET WARNER: Gwen, we went to the site of the bombing late in the day. The police had cordoned off the whole area and weren't letting media in. This area is really kind of across and catty-cornered from the Green Zone and up the Tigris River.
And we were able to approach it late. We got through by talking to the army officers there. And what we saw was a very huge square which had been an open-air market, but this is where we -- we spoke to one of the police officers who had been at a checkpoint nearby and had witnessed it. He said that people overnight had been waiting, camping there, young men, so that they could be first in line at this army recruiting station in the morning. All we could see was a gigantic pool of human blood still, I would say seven feet wide, and a huge pile of shoes.

GWEN IFILL: Margaret, do you have any sense of who was responsible for this or why this location?

MARGARET WARNER: You would have to call this still the heart of Baghdad. There are a lot of government ministries and government buildings in this area. And whoever did it clearly is trying to send a signal that, as the government prepares to really take over even greater security responsibilities from the Americans, that they aren't up to the task. So, whether it's al-Qaida, which is what the Iraqi military is saying officially, or whether it's what quite a few people in the crowd -- they suspect the hand of either the Iranians, Iranian intelligence, the Syrians -- no one is quite sure, but there is just no doubt that the -- that various insurgencies and terrorist groups out there still have the power to strike, if not in big coordinated attacks, as they used to, in still fairly spectacular ones with high symbolic value.

GWEN IFILL: With this violence, this uptick in violence we're seeing, how insecure are people feeling about this upcoming pullout or handover or whatever you want to call it?

MARGARET WARNER: They sound insecure when they speak to me about it, Gwen. I have only been here, what, 36 hours. But, on the one hand, many are welcoming the fact that Americans are drawing down further. And they're well aware that they haven't seen American troops, for example, patrolling in Baghdad streets for over a year now. Americans pulled out from the cities a year ago. But everybody knew that the cavalry was very nearby and it was very big, I mean, 150,000, 160,000 U.S. troops at its peak. By September 1, that's down to 50,000, which is about 20,000 fighting forces. And the Iraqi people know this. And, so, what I have heard from a lot of people is pride in their armed forces, but also trepidation that they may not be able to handle it and that various groups are going to try to take advantage of this transition to step up their level of attacks.

GWEN IFILL: So, is there a pretty clear understanding or suspicion that there's a connection between this violence and this upcoming change in ownership of this war?

MARGARET WARNER: Yes, Gwen. And, also, people here are making the connection between the violence and the lack of a new government here. As you know, elections were held five months ago. The two top vote-getting parties and other parties have still not been able to come up with a coalition or power-sharing arrangement. And what I have heard from people, shop people, shoppers, mothers, young mothers that we have spoken to today, and in fact a couple of young army officers whom I spoke to off-camera, is that this lack of a government is also another invitation to those who would try to exploit the still considerable weakness of this Iraqi state that is trying to stand itself up. So, I would say both the -- the political transition that has not yet been completed, as well as the military one, is -- is making people nervous here.

Remember The NewsHour has video, audio and text (again, here for the Iraq report). NBC and PBS had the best footage and offered the only from Iraq reports. ABC was saved by the fact that, like Richard Engel, Martha Raddatz has reported on Iraq since the start of the war and doesn't need to 'come up to speed' before stepping in front of the camera. For analysis, ABC tied with PBS as the best. For reports of what happened, NBC tied with PBS. PBS was clearly providing the most information for the news consumer. CBS viewers who were not stoned (legally or otherwise) were cheated.

jamal rhett

Again, that's Jamal Rhett from his Facebook page.

Late yesterday, DoD got off its lazy butt and issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Jamal M. Rhett, 24, of Palmyra, N.J., died Aug. 15 in Ba Qubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with grenades. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. For more information, the media may contact the 25th Infantry Division public affairs office at 808-655-6341."

Cedric's "Don't worry, you'll pick up the tab" is up and is among the community posts that went up this morning and last night:

We'll close with this from Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan's "Racketeers for Capitalism by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy Sheehan's Soap Box):

I happen to believe that the wars and everything else became Obama’s problems on January 20, 2009, but in reading comments about today’s carnage on that bastion of centrism, the Huffington Post—many people either believe that the Afghanistan occupation just became Obama’s War today, or that (in the case of at least one commenter)—Obama was forced to send more troops, and when one sends more troops, more of them will die. The matter-of-fact callousness of this remark stung like a hornet to me, and I bet the mothers of numbers 1227, 1228, and 1229 did not feel so cavalier when the Grim Reapers in dress khakis knocked on their doors today.
As little as we hear about U.S. troops, as is our custom here in the Empire, the tragic slaughter of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan doesn’t even deserve a blip on our radar screens. I watched three hours of MSDNC(MSNBC) tonight and the manipulative gyrations to find out how many ways that they could talk about the “distraction” of the “mosque” at ground zero without talking about the one-million plus Arabs (Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc) that the psychopathic U.S. response to September 11, 2001 has killed, was pathetic and frustrating to watch.
There has been a bumper sticker saying for years that goes: “What if they gave a war and no one showed up?”
Well, “they,” the ones that give the wars are not going to stop. “They” have too much at stake to give up the cash cow of wars for Imperial Profit, Power, and Expansion. “They” use the toady media to whip up nationalistic and patriotic fervor to get our kids to be thrown together with the victims in a meat grinder of destruction and we just sit here and allow them to do it.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends