Matt Towery

Coverage by national media of the two American servicemen tortured, murdered and mutilated in Iraq was revealing in itself.

This gruesome event overseas was reported here against a backdrop of debate on Capitol Hill about whether and when U.S. forces should withdraw from Iraq.

We are left to wonder what potentially dramatic impact this deliberate butchery might have had on Americans' opinion of the war effort had most newspapers across the nation chosen to make banner headlines of it.

Some did, as did a number of broadcast outlets. More typical, however, was the editorial decision at the nation's largest newspaper, USA Today. The full story of these atrocities could only be found deep into the first section of the daily edition.

Liberal media conspiracy?

I've addressed this idea many times. I've tried to explain that, in most instances, well-meaning editors and others in the news profession view stories differently than those in the American heartland.

As a result, they often have sincere if misguided reasons for what can appear to many of us as their head-in-the-sand indifference to stories that perhaps should be page-one material.

But it's important for news organizations to understand that this kind of editorial reasoning only feeds the widespread belief that a largely liberal Third Estate manages the news to fit their worldview, instead of reporting it to reflect the views of most readers.

This is too often done by giving top billing to comparatively insignificant stories.

In coverage of the Iraq war, American troops are not infrequently cast as the villains in any of various misdeeds a few may have committed. But when they are the victims of ghastly war crimes, it seems to warrant far less media focus.

This particular incident has the potential to galvanize the nation in support of its troops, if not of the Iraq war itself. In days past, the public's reaction to something like this would have been swift and certain. Unspeakable mutilation and desecration of young American servicemen would have brought out American flags, and would have become a rallying point for protests and demands for retribution. Undoubtedly, the end result would have been a big boost to support for America's war efforts.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery