The news media are self-censoring reports about Iraq because of concern for public reaction to graphic images and details about death and torture, according to a survey of 210 U.S. and international journalists. Many reporters and editors chose less-graphic images and explicit details, or made them less noticeable, according to an online, anonymous survey conducted between September and October 2004 by two American University professors. The study was released March 17. Findings also included how journalists were using the Internet to enhance coverage of events in Iraq. One-third said they published material — such as photographic essays, extended interviews and behind-the-scenes reporters’ accounts – that was not used in their reports on their news organization’s Web site.
The survey is a “window on journalists grappling with how to handle the imagery of war,” one of the authors, Jane Hall, a journalism professor at American University in Washington, told United Press International. Journalists from a variety of media outlets were asked about coverage from March 2003 to September 2004, from the beginning of the war in Iraq through the first 15 months of the U.S.-led occupation. This was a period of some of the most violent incidents in Iraq after President Bush announced the end of major U.S. combat operations there. A wave of beheadings peaked, four contractors were killed and their charred bodies hung from a bridge in Fallujah, and explicit images from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal surfaced. Of the 210 respondents — out of 1,000 invited by e-mail to participate, 73 were in Iraq during and after the war.
Half of that group was embedded with the U.S. military during all or part of their time in Iraq. The majority of all the journalists reported to an American audience. The publications involved were not identified. (MORE)