The Media's Iraq War

The Media's Iraq War

Heather Heitfielcl and Rita J. Simon, in Gender Issues (Winter 2002), Transaction Periodicals Consortium, Rutgers University, 35 Berrue Circle, Piscatawa~, N.J. 08854-8042. Globalization has been a good thing for most women around the world, and one piece of evidence for that proposition, oddly enough, is that more ofthem are in jail than ever before.It makes sense, say Heitfield and Sinloll, a graduate student and professor, respectively, at American University. Globalization produces economic a...

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just my bad luck to have been in the bank then." The lucky had a different reaction: "Things could have been a lot worse; I might have been shot in the head." That sort of positive attitude among the lucky, says Wiseman, "helps keep their expectations about the future high," and makes a continued lucky life more likely. But the ill-starred need not fear that all is lost.

Wiseman explained "the four main principles of luck" to a group of volunteers who then went off for a month to put the principles into practice. On their return, he says, 80 percent reported that they "were now happier, more satisfied with their lives, and, perhaps most important of all, luckier." A fortunate outcome, indeed! (Knock on wood.)

The Bright Side of Prison

"Women in Prison: A Comparative Assessment" by Heather Heitfield and Rita J. Simon, in Gender Issues (Winter 2002), Transaction Periodicals Consortium, Rutgers University, 35 Berrue Circle, Piscataway, N.J. 08854–8042.

Globalization has been a good thing for most women around the world, and one piece of evidence for that proposition, oddly enough, is that more of them are in jail than ever before.

It makes sense, say Heitfield and Simon, a graduate student and professor, respectively, at American University. Globalization produces economic and social progress, which allows more women to "assume the positions of authority and power that have traditionally been held by men." That also means "increased exposure to opportunities to commit workplace and property crimes such as larceny, fraud, embezzlement and forgery." Apparently, women have been seizing those opportunities.

In their survey of 26 countries, Heitfield and Simon find that Thailand tops the list of dubious honor. Women make up 18 percent of the prison population there. Next come Argentina, the Netherlands, and the United States, all at levels slightly above eight percent. (There were just under one million women behind bars in the United States in 1998.) At the bottom of the scale are Israel, Pakistan, and Nigeria, where women constitute two percent or less of the prison population.

Feeding these and other data into a computer, the authors looked for correlations. They found that incarceration rates were pretty closely linked with levels of female education and literacy. More education generally means more women in prison. So does a higher rate of economic growth. Yet, surprisingly, the authors uncovered no meaningful connection between jail time and women’s participation in the work force or other labor-related indicators. They say their findings point to a need for new prisons and for new policies for dealing with inmates who, among other things, bear and raise children.

Press & Media

The Media’s Iraq War

A Survey of Recent Articles

"During seven weeks spent with half a dozen [U.S. Army] units," recalls David Zucchino, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times (May 3, 2003), "I slept in fighting holes and armored vehicles, on a rooftop, a garage floor and in lumbering troop trucks. . . . I ate with the troops. . . . I complained with them about the choking dust, the lack of water, our foul-smelling bodies, and our scaly, rotting feet." Like the 600 other journalists "embedded" in U.S. military units during the 43-day war in Iraq, Zucchino was dependent on his hosts for sustenance, transportation, protection—and access. This last enabled him to write vividly detailed stories about the battle for Baghdad and the performance of American soldiers in combat. But the officially sanctioned access also limited him. "I could not interview survivors of Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. soldiers. . . . I had no idea what ordinary Iraqis were experiencing."

Despite its drawbacks, the extensive embedding experiment (which had been tried on

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The Periodical Observer

a limited basis during the 2001–02 war in Afghanistan) was deemed a success by both the military and the media.

Major newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, also dispatched many reporters and photographers who were not lodged with

U.S. troops. Those colleagues, says Zucchino, "covered what we could not—the Iraq government, civilian casualties, humanitarian crises, military strategy, political fallout, and everything else beyond our cloistered existence." "The war has been reported superbly by newspapers," says Stephen Hess, who scrutinizes the media from his scholarly perch at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "The stories have been rich in variety, coming at this from so many different angles."

But only a minority of Americans (30 percent, in one poll) relied on newspapers for news about the war. Advanced technology and access to the battlefield allowed both cable and broadcast TV to relay powerful images of firefights and bombs exploding over Baghdad.

Yet graphic footage of the death and suffering seldom made it on the air, at least in the United States. A study of more than 40 hours of coverage on the broadcast and cable networks early in the war "found that about half the reports from embedded journalists showed combat action, but not a single story depicted people hit by weapons," writes Jacqueline E. Sharkey, head of the Department of Journalism at the University of Arizona, in American Journalism Review (May 2003). "As the war continued, the networks did show casualties, usually from afar. The footage was much less graphic than still photographs shown in newspapers and magazines."

Fox News, the most-watched cable news channel, and MSNBC, which drew on the journalistic resources of NBC News, took an "overtly patriotic approach" in their coverage, Sharkey notes, and reaped huge ratings increases. That’s not to say there was no media criticism of the war, observes contributing writer Rachel Smolkin in a subsequent issue (June 2003) of American Journalism Review— especially when the march on Baghdad seemed bogged down. She reports that journalists are still debating whether they overreacted to Washington’s cues—pumping up the promised "shock and awe" campaign, then complaining when a quick victory seemed out of reach, for example—and to the demands of a round-the-clock news cycle.

Michael Massing, a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review who was in Qatar during the war, found MSNBC’s "mawkishness and breathless boosterism" repellent. "Its anchors mostly recounted tales of American bravery and derring-do," he writes in The New York Review of Books (May 29, 2003).

Far more impressive, in Massing’s judgment, was the coverage by the BBC. "With 200 reporters, producers, and technicians in the field, its largest deployment ever, the network offered no-nonsense anchors, tenacious correspondents, perceptive features, and a host of commentators steeped in knowledge of the Middle East, in contrast to the retired gener


Missing the Beat

Bright writing now brings the most and quickest rewards inside news organizations—rather than the solid but often less spectacular beat reporting of the best of journalists, like [The New York Times’] Linda Greenhouse, a worthy Pulitzer winner at the Supreme Court after years of quiet hard work. Young reporters are quick to learn this new reality, and ride the trend. They also know that their news organizations manage or even manipulate coverage to position favored reporters on the fast track for prizes and promotions. There is much temptation to put more emphasis on "writing" rather than reporting. The [Jayson] Blair case is but the most grotesque and damaging manifestation of this trend.

—Barbara Crossette, a former New York Times correspondent and bureau chief, on the Romenesko page at

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als and colonels we saw on American TV. Reporters were not afraid to challenge the coalition’s claims."

The coverage CNN offered to the world at large was, despite "plenty of overlap," different from the coverage it gave American viewers, according to Massing. CNN International "was far more serious and informed"—more like the BBC. "For the most part," he says, "U.S. news organizations gave Americans the war they thought Americans wanted to see."

Religion & Philosophy

The Birth of Religious Toleration

"Diplomacy and Domestic Devotion: Embassy Chapels and the Toleration of Religious Dissent in Early Modern Europe" by Benjamin J. Kaplan, in Journal of Early Modern History (2002: No. 4), Univ. of Minnesota, 614 Social Sciences, 267-19th Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55455; and "Fictions of Privacy: House Chapels and the Spatial Accommodation of Religious Dissent in Early Modern Europe" by Benjamin J. Kaplan, in American Historical Review (Oct. 2002), 400 A St., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003.

In the aftermath of the Reformation, the religious division in European states caused a special problem for diplomats: Where was a Protestant ambassador to worship in a Catholic capital such as Paris, Vienna, Brussels, or Madrid? And where was a Catholic diplomat to worship in a Protestant capital such as London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, or The Hague? To deal with the diplomatic issue, and, more broadly, to keep domestic religious divisions from tearing countries apart, European states hit upon a distinction that allowed the furtive practice of religious tolerance.

The distinction they made, explains Kaplan, a historian at University College, London, was between public worship, in accordance with a community’s official faith, and private worship. Beginning in the 17th century, ambassadors were allowed increasingly to establish chapels inside their residences where they could practice their forbidden faith in private—as long as they did not visibly flout the sacral community of the host nation.

Parallel practices evolved outside the rarefied realm of high diplomacy with the gradual acceptance of what the Dutch called the schuilkerk, or clandestine church. Most schuilkerken were created in-

When the Catholic chapel in the French embassy in London collapsed in 1623 on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, killing 90, Protestants saw it as an act of divine retribution.

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