Friday, May 21, 2004

A Fox News poll released yesterday found 70 percent of those surveyed say that news reports about U.S. military operations in Iraq focus only on the negative, and “leave out the positive.”

That figure is up 10 points since Fox posed the same question in October.

The survey also revealed that the public can detect an “agenda.”

When asked where “most problems are being created” regarding the situation in Iraq, 27 percent blamed “the news media.” Another 23 percent said they were created in Iraq, 18 percent felt they originated in Washington and 21 percent in a combination of factors.

The poll of 900 registered voters was conducted on May 18 and 19.

In terms of news coverage, 34 percent said the press spent an “excessive” amount of time covering the abuse of Iraqi prisoners; 9 percent said the media had dwelled too much on the beheading of American contractor Nicholas Berg. Another 35 percent felt that both stories were in the news too often.

The poll found that 60 percent were more upset by the Berg story than the prisoner abuse; 8 percent felt the abuse was worse. Another 29 percent rated them “equal” on an emotional scale.

Journalists are losing at least one specific audience, says Tim Chavez of the Nashville Tennessean.

Mothers of U.S. Marines stationed in Iraq don’t base their opinions around “news media coverage, Bob Woodward’s latest book, the loudest talking head on television or a presidential candidate,” Mr. Chavez wrote.

“They’ve quit watching and reading the news. They say the coverage doesn’t provide the full story.

“If any one of the 200,000 members of our armed forces is doing something right in Iraq, the average viewer and reader would be hard pressed to find out. Yet if there is even speculation of something wrong, it leads the newscasts and makes the front page.”

The Washington Post published new abuse images from unidentified sources, including a video posted at its Web site yesterday.

The National Journal’s “Hotline” called it a “Win for the Web — with the Washington Post’s exclusive new Iraqi-prisoner scoop, is this the first time a newspaper has beaten a TV outlet by being the first to post video?”

The video does not constitute excessive coverage or an attempt to “sell newspapers,” said Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie.

“We are not rehashing previously published information. We are adding new information in an effort to determine the full extent of the abuse and who is responsible for it up the chain of command,” Mr. Downie said.

Others differed. “Both the media and Congress are obsessed by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal,” observed one of them. “It is awful, but both institutions are treating it as if it were the most important occurrence of the war,” observed Roll Call’s executive editor, Morton Kondrake, yesterday.

• Contact Jennifer Harper at or 202/636-3085.

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