Project for Excellence in Journalism Examines Iraq War Coverage

Journalists showed the grim face of the war in the first 10 months of the year, according to a content analysis by the Project for Excellence in Journalism of stories about events on the ground in Iraq.

But that squared with Defense Department statistics showing this to be the deadliest year so far, rather than being any anti-military or anti-administration bias, the study concluded.

Daily violence made up 47% of the stories, but since many were short, they made up only 27% of the total news hole for the stories surveyed. The study said the journalists tended to limit analysis of the violence. The stories that did try to assess the direction of the war tended to be pessimistic, but even that pessimism was more toward the Iraqi government and the stability of the country rather than toward the U.S. war effort, PEJ said.

The picture brightened toward late summer, however, as daily attacks decreased.

The coverage was, not surprisingly, U.S.-focused, with one-half the stories about the U.S. military or officials and another 10% about contractors (mostly about Blackwater, again no surprise).

Stories about Iraqi civilians, in contrast, made up only 3% of the total.

PEJ looked at more than 1,100 stories (January-October) from 40 outlets including cable and network TV, Web sites, newspapers and radio.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.