The campaign to get more balance into Iraq reporting has been driven by the Internet bloggers, particularly by Andrew Sullivan (AndrewSullivan.com) and law professor Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee (Instapundit.com). Reynolds deplores 'the lazy Vietnam-templating, the "Of course America must be losing' spin, the implicit and sometimes explicit sneer ..."
Both Reynolds and Sullivan encourage U.S. soldiers and others in Iraq to send in their own reports, which have generally been positive and hopeful. "I don't trust most of the journalists, I'm afraid," Sullivan wrote in a July appeal for firsthand accounts. Letters home from Iraq are now regularly put up on the Internet. One last week from Senior Chief Petty Officer Art Messer of the Navy Seabees said: "The countryside is getting more safe by the day despite all the attacks you are hearing about. Imagine if every shooting incident or robbery committed in Los Angeles was blown out of proportion." A few military personnel have their own blogs. One, who calls himself Chief Wiggles, is quite good.
The Internet campaign is another example of the new media going around the old media, in this case to counter stories by quagmire-oriented reporters. Perhaps goaded by Internet coverage, USA Today became the first mainstream outlet (as far as I can see) to highlight problems in current Iraq coverage. A strong article last week by Peter Johnson quoted this from MSNBC's Bob Arnot in Iraq: "I contrast some of the infectious enthusiasm I see here with what I see on TV and I say, 'Oh, my God, am I in the same country?'" Time magazine's Brian Bennett added: "What gets in the headlines is the American soldier getting shot, not the American soldiers rebuilding a school or digging a well."
Bennett says the violence and threats are real, but so are growing signs of stability in Iraqi life, with restaurants reopening every day and women feeling increasingly safe on the street.
Columnist Tom Friedman of The New York Times says he is a "worried optimist" who thinks things in Iraq are not as good as they should be by now, but not as bad as they seem from afar. That view might be a starting point for the big media to discuss how the "look from afar" got so skewed.
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