Losing sight of Iraq

What happened to the coverage?

Read “Whatever Happened to Iraq?” from the American Journalism Review online at www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4515.

Last March, something was missing from our paper.

In 2006 and 2007, SN&R published special reports to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. In both issues, we included statistics about the war: its cost, troops’ demographics, number of Iraqis killed, number of local soldiers dead.

But this past March, we stuck to our usual “Iraq War Timeline,” published monthly.

The decision to go with less coverage was based, at least in part, on the feeling that our readers, like most Americans, had tired of hearing about the war. The latest issue of American Journalism Review confirms this impression—and does it by referring to The Sacramento Bee.

In “Whatever Happened to Iraq?” Sherry Ricchiardi analyzed the changes in news coverage of the war in Iraq over the past year. The story prominently features a piece from last March by the Bee’s public editor, Armando Acuna, in which he lamented the way that his own paper had moved its coverage of the war to inside pages. Acuna found that the Bee’s coverage of Iraq had dropped by 70 percent in the first quarter of this year.

But it’s not just the Bee.

In the interest of fairness, SN&R’s coverage of the war also dropped in the first quarter of this year.

What remains to be seen is whether readers—including our own—will demand more coverage of the war. It shouldn’t take a catastrophe or a scandal—or even just the news that war has cost the United States $700 billion since 9/11—to direct our attention to the longest-running war in American history.