The onset of war between the U.S. and Iraq is being viewed by billions of people worldwide. Unlike anyother war to date, images from the front line are being simultaneously shot and viewed. The consequences of this approach to journalism are far-reaching and disturbing. Here’s why.
CNN, “the most trusted network on television,” earns the award for the station with the most extensive coverage. Since Bush gave his 48-hour ultimatum, CNN has had non-stop commentary and images covering every aspect of the war. The immediacy and volume of coverage is overwhelming. In fact, it distorts the very nature of war itself. The constant exposure gives the impression every single gunshot and death is being covered at the exact instant it happens. This simply is not possible, and it is not true. Many acts are going unreported, many deaths untold.
The modernization of media is not decreasing the bias inherent in every viewpoint. On the contrary, it is highlighting it. Viewers are easily misled into believing the extent of coverage makes it more reliable. The reporters who are embedded in the troops are still only seeing one side of the picture. Yes, it is a valuable side, but ithas limitations that are not being acknowledged.
While the American position is being broadcast constantly through these messengers, the Iraqi side goes largely unnoticed. The average clip from the Arab television station al-Jazeera is shown only when CNN takes issue with it. Most Canadians and Americans are still only seeing one side of the story; what is worse, they are seeing it all the time.
Broadcasting a war while it is being fought is a bad idea. It desensitizes the public to its horrors. Every new image of a bloody body or a blown-up building looks just like the last. The essence of the human experience in war is lost in the quantity of images assaulting the screen. Journalism is losing its integrity in a battle for ratings. The most tragic event about this media onslaught is viewers are losing their ability to be objective. Even Canadian media outlets are beginning to take up CNN-style reporting. Surely it is time to take a step back and reassess the value of this kind of journalism and the technology that makes it possible: Are we really understanding war better, or is it just being misrepresented on a far larger and more detrimental scale?