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Vanishing Iraq Coverage

I wrote the following letter to the editor of American Journalism Review.  Please follow the links for the original story and this link for the original letter to the editor.

I read your story "Whatever Happened to Iraq?" (June/July) because I am trying to figure out the same thing. Why did the news from Iraq disappear about the time the situation here started to change? I think the problem might be that the American success in Iraq doesn't fit the earlier defeat-and-destruction narrative that you mention in your story.

I don't think it is a conspiracy, but it is a syndrome. Journalists like stories that fit their narratives. Once they have found a narrative that other journalists consent to, they are loath to seek disconfirming evidence. My complaint is that the lack of news now has frozen American perceptions in the bad old days of 2006. So much has changed since then. I have seen it in my 10 months here; Marines who were here in 2005 and 2006 tell me that the change is simply unbelievable, which may be why journalists don't believe it.

The fantastic story, which will probably be told by historians and not current journalists, is that we faced down an insurgency in the center of the Middle East, in a place (Anbar) that al Qaeda had declared the center of its new caliphate. We have driven them to virtual extinction in the course of about a year and did what the pundits and many American politicians said could not be done. Why is that not a story?

Instead, it is big news when the odd bomber gets lucky and kills a bunch of civilians. It is a case of journalists truly missing the forest for the trees.

John A. Matel
U.S. Department of State
Western Anbar, Iraq

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I think another reason is that the American public just doesn't care anymore. The media has a bottom line to worry about, and if they're more likely to make money with Paris Hilton twat shots, then they'll probably take the low road. A study back in March found that most Americans didn't even know the rough number of troops KIA in Iraq (presumably this would be an important statistic to all Americans). It sucks, I know, but, FWIW, I'm glad you're still writing about Iraq so I can keep up with things over there.

Intl. Zone 2007-2008

Thanks for writing that letter to the editor. The lack of news coverage while my Marine son was in Iraq was a real eye-opener for me. Now as he prepares for deployment to Afghanistan, I feel I know better what not to expect from mainstream coverage of the War on Terror. Again, thanks for your blog.

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