News reporting bias – from gung-ho Iraq style to personal stories in Libya (blog)

There is a quite a difference in the tone of reporting on the end of the Libyan conflict (near end, anyway) and the end of the Iraqi conflict. Today’s reporting is much more personal, narrative stories of people effected by the crisis, and usually from both sides of the fence, pro and anti-Gaddafi.

The Iraqi news, by contrast, was more utilitarian, more ra-ra pro-war, with very few human voices reaching the global media.

I think there are two main reasons for this:

1) Iraq was a US-led war, with US war reporting restrictions & conventions


2) Libya had a ton of journalists in town who all needed the human hook after six-months of civil war attrition

There is minimal control that one can exert on the press in Libya, unless, of course, you were a star international journalist (or conspiracy-theory stooge) and stuck in the Rixos Hotel listening to regime rhetoric and stage-managed events. This means that the flow of information is highly porous, especially so in the tense fin-de-regime moments.

In contrast, Iraq – and also Afghanistan – were full-on, international war zones. Hence the machinery of war reporting was vastly different.

Secondly I believe that the time it has taken to dismantle the cover of the Gaddafi regime has led journalists deeper into the story, looking to hook viewers into more of a human interest angle. And, once they got started, they are stuck in that pattern. Not that that is a bad thing – it is just different to ra-ra reporting.

Perhaps there is a final 3rd reason for the change in reporting style. The Iraq War was fought within Facebook and Twitter, without photos being uploaded from cameras to YouTube within moments of them occurring. Media was more controllable, all those many years ago (ok, a short decade).

So now we have citizens reporting news for other citizens around the world. And unfiltered news ‘push’ channels, like Twitter, than helps news seep out, bypassing the curated web sites of the New York Times and the BBC. Even smaller news sources have benefited somewhat as the use of Google News creeps up, allowing people to create their own customized daily news feed (mine contains “Libya”, “Syria”, “Belarus”, “North Korea”, and recently “Iran”).

News reporting on key events creates a very influential lens for people growing up while events unfold. By growing up, I mean the teenage and young adult years, the impressionable years. Perhaps we will get lucky therefore, and the generation coming of age will have a model of humanity and connection to people as a role for themselves to match.

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