Sunday, September 10, 2006

C.I. on the little noted death toll

Since August 27, 29 US troops have died -- where's the coverage?

American military officials announced Monday that four soldiers and two marines had died since Sunday. All but one of the deaths were caused by enemy fire. Two British soldiers were also killed Monday, in a roadside explosion in Basra.

Remember that from Paul von Zeilbauer's "40 Bodies, Many Blindfolded, Are Found in Baghdad; 1980’s Execution Site Is Also Uncovered" in this morning's New York Times? In this morning's Washington Post, Amit R. Paley and Naseer Nouri's "7 U.S., British Troops Killed In Iraq Attacks" put it this way:

Seven American and British troops were killed in separate incidents across Iraq over the past 48 hours, military officials said Monday.

Is it registering? Let's drop back to Sunday night's "And the war drags on . . ." for this:

Last Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2624. Tonight? 2647. That's twenty three since last Sunday. Twenty-three in one week. Did you see any coverage that indicated that last week or this weekend?

Twenty-three in one week, from the last Sunday in August to the first Sunday in September. And was it registering? Was it even being noted? Did you see anything in last week's coverage, anywhere, that indicated an average of a little over three Americans were dying daily?

It's a question worth returning to as the count is now 2653 and it's Tuesday morning (Sunday evening's US military fatality count was 2647). AP noted the passage of the 2600 mark in real time. No one else did. Big and small, the media didn't note it that Saturday (or the following Monday for those that are off on the weekends). And there's something else we haven't seen from big media. Today is September 5th.

The fifth day of a new month. Can you figure out what story we haven't seen? (New York Times readers should be able to.) The count for September's US military fatalities seems to be sticking at 65. The military often waits a day or two to add to the totals -- usually after the press has done their first of the month stories where they (often briefly) look back at the fatalities.

If they (including the Times) were waiting to make sure they weren't sucker punched by late reported figures, that's something to to be thankful for since the number often changes after those first day of the month reports run. But it's five days after. At the start of April, March's 31 fatalities were trumpted as a turned corner. In August, the pitch was July's 43 was the second lowest month since March! (Note that 31 and 43 may not have been the figures used in the reports. The figures may have been lower because they ran prior to the final counts.) Now we've got 65 and where's the coverage of the month of August or, for that matter, where's the coverage that indicates, in any form, the continued dying. I don't mean "Today ___ died." I'm talking about the continued dying. There are 11 US military fatality deaths for this month already. Already. Where is the coverage?

As Billie noted, her local (TV) news wasn't able to find time to note deaths on Saturday or Sunday -- they were too busy 'covering' one of their employees giving birth and one of their employees being promoted to DC headquarters. Eddie e-mailed that, on the latter, the Sunday coverage included the rotund promotee being shown, in gag reel, footage breaking the handle off an ice cream machine -- well HA-HA-HA. What a proud news organization that must be. Always there with cameras to cover . . . itself.

Billie estimated that Sunday's "news story" (the promotion) took two minutes. Iraq was dispensed with in less than thirty-seconds (they only covered the capture of "number two" -- which Richard A. Oppel noted in the Times yesterday, probably wasn't actually "number two").
By the time most had woken in the United States on Sunday morning, the wires were reporting that two US soldiers had died in Baghdad (roadside bomb), that a third had died on Sunday from injuries received earlier and that the military (on Sunday) was announcing the death of a fourth (who died on Friday).

That didn't make Billie & Eddie's local news. They got less than thirty-seconds on Iraq that focused only on a wave of happy talk that could have (and should have) been seen for the nonsense it was before Oppel's story made it into print. But there was air time, two minutes, for the "news" broadcast to not just note that an employee was leaving (an announcement that shouldn't have taken more than 15 seconds) but to show him (Eddie thinks it was at a Cowboy's training camp) breaking the handle off an ice cream machine and the ice cream endlessly pouring out, to titter and chuckle and to do everything but their job which is NEWS.

Their job isn't to cover themselves. A farewell to someone leaving their team, fine, fifteen seconds. It's not news. But fine. Taking two minutes, showing gag reel footage? That's not news. Failure to even note that day's deaths in Iraq? Not news.

So when you wonder why some people don't seem to grasp that their own country is still engaged in war, you can cite the sins of the so-called news media. You don't have to peer to closely to find them -- they're front and center, displayed proudly when they all ought to be ashamed.

Something to think about when the US fatality toll has already hit eleven and we're only on the fifth day of the month. And while thinking about that, ask yourself which outlets bothered to inform you of the 65 dead in August? Which outlets looked back and reported that? Billie says WB 33's "news" used the capture to promote the war as a "success" (Eddie echoes that as do four other members who caught that broadcast). Toss in that Iraq fell off independent media's radar as well. But grasp that a 'capture' is hailed as proof that "winning" is going on. They can't note the fatalities because to do that (a) wouldn't allow them to spin so freely and (b) would cut into the time they so obviously need to report on their staff's births and promotions. Maybe someone on their "news" team is getting married this week and they can do a five segment on that?

I didn't have time (or energy) Sunday to look up the station's letter. It's KDAF, out of Dallas. And its "news" division comes from Tribune which is why members watching KDAF often complain about Chicago footage popping up in the "reporting." (Infamously, a Fourth of July report had many members complaining about the 'people on the street' talking about the hot dogs they were serving since, as In Dallas noted, "Texas is beef country.") So, the point, it's not just one station in one city. Tribune services many stations. The DFW market is a top market (top ten) and if that's how Tribune runs their "news" in that city, you can bet that other big markets get the same crap and that it's probably even worse for the smaller markets.

It's an argument against deregulation. It's also one of the reasons people who watch the news (or "news") are so regularly provided with nothing resembling news.

The e-mail address for this site is And by the way, if you see something similar in your market, I can't promise it will go up here (because we're trying to focus on Iraq here) but if it doesn't make it up here, we can note it at The Third Estate Sunday Review. So if you're heavily frustrated with the news (or "news") in your own region, feel free to sound off. (For this site, that means community members only. For The Third Estate Sunday Review, whole features have been built around problems that e-mails have noted -- e-mails from anyone.)

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