Broadcast Noise

I’m doing the final touches on my article on war documentaries this weekend and wanted to gesure towards another project I’d like to tackle. A few months ago, I mentioned interest in David Mindich’s Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News, even while expressing some suspicion towards one of Mindich’s argument. Mindich was kind enough to arrange for the publisher to send me a copy, and I’ve been thinking about his arguments about American news-watching practices ever since (my suspicions that Mindich imagined a “golden age” of informed citizens, it turns out, weren’t warranted).

I’m not yet sure what this new project will look like. I’ll certainly continue thinking about these documentaries about the Iraq War by both embedded reporters and Iraqi artists and filmmakers, but more recntly, debates about the network and cable news coverage of the war and American politics in general have been attracting my attention. Eric Alterman points to an October 2003 study by the Program on International Policy Issues (PIPA), “Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War” (PDF) that raised some important questions about how the American public saw the war in Iraq much differently than the rest of the world (and as Alterman illustrates, the problems identified in that report persist to this day).

I’m also intrigued by the Media Matters report, “If It’s Sunday, It’s Coservative” (PDF) that offers some fairly compelling data to illustrate a conservative bias on the Sunday morning talk shows (and the reasons that such a bias is important). But I think that all of these texts, from different angles, help illuminate some of my own frustrations about politics and the news media (yes, I know that term is way too broad). I’m still sorting through these ideas. Hopefully I’ll have time to write a longer post on this topic over the weekend, but if anyone has read either report (or Mindich’s book), feel free to comment.

Update: Eric Alterman’s Nation column offers an insightful analysis of the Media Matters report and raises one of the key points I wanted address: even without analyzing Fox’s Sunday morning shows, the Media Matters folks were able to detect a strong conservative bias in Sunday morning guests.

Update 2: This article by Farnaz Fassihi about her experiences as a reporter covering the war in Iraq is fascinating and chilling.

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