Friday, August 04, 2006

"Fingers are getting increasingly cold in the stands as this so-called 'game' wears on, Lloyd."

Babble on.

Has anyone else noticed the gargantuan, fly-a-Herc-through-it hole in the war reporting from Lebanon?

We have story after story after story that zeroes in on civilian loss of life. Dreadful, tragic, and important to report, absolutely. But only part of the story, one would think.

I mean, it is a military operation, isn't it? So how's the military part going? Anyone? Bueller?

If I were editor at a newspaper, or producer at a news show on TV or radio I'd be calling CDA and getting in touch with a couple of retired colonels. I'd ask one to take the Israeli side, and the other - hopefully with some expertise in asymmetrical warfare - to take the Hezbollah side, and get them to lay out how they think each would prosecute their respective campaigns. I'd have them dredge the publicly-available intelligence information to determine how each side's effort is proceeding, and ask them to lay out the conditions by which each side could reasonably claim victory. I'd rely on them to help my staff put together graphics that illustrated, for example, how Hezbollah's supplies are projected to be depleting, and on what timelines. Or maps that show why certain bridges were just dropped in terms of the fighting around them or the supplies moving over them.

In other words, I'd devote a hefty chunk of page space or airtime to educating the public - who mostly have no clue about military tactics or strategy - about the how and why of each move both Hezbollah and the IDF make, so that they could put the other information they receive about the wider conflict into context.

Because right now, I have to agree with Kate's assessment from a few months back about a different war with the same media myopia:

...perhaps the time has come to send sports reporters to war zones. It seems to be one of the last refuges of journalism in which a) reporters have basic knowledge of the subject matter they're assigned to, and b) they're expected to report the details and outcome of the race, even if a contestant is injured or dies during competition.

It's astonishing that the same country that still celebrates the envelope pushing performances (and near-death experiences) of the "Crazy Canucks" downhill ski team, hasn't figured out that covering a war in the context of body counts is the sports journalism equivalent of limiting Olympic coverage to the daily injury reports of the various countries in competition.

For me, taking in the current coverage of the war in the Levant is like watching a hockey game on TV where the cameramen don't know how to follow the action; where the play-by-play and colour commentators don't know the players, the objective of the game, or how to keep score; and where accordingly, the entire focus of the broadcast is on how cold the people in the bleachers are growing as the game wears on and on, suffering without purpose as pucks fly randomly into the stands, and the crash of bodychecks shatter the fragile tranquility of the stands.

Babble off.

Update: Back to playing editor/producer for a moment, given the fact that war reporting seems to be upon us for the forseeable future, I might even hire a few ex-military reporters or pundits. We have far too few Chris Watties in the Canadian media.

And before you even go there, I'm not fishing here; I'm quite happy selling insurance for a living, thank you very much.


At 7:29 p.m., Blogger Craig said...

Hmmm... somewhere along the lines, it would seem that the general public has lost track of the fact the WAR is not faught between soldiers in some little private corner where only soldiers get hurt. WAR is in very public places and civilians and soldiers get injured/killed regardless.
So, sorry if a few citizens get killed - but that is WAR - either get over it or put some real effort into ending it.

At 1:00 a.m., Blogger Dwayne said...


In all of your commentary you are talking about actually educating your audience. The media isn't interested in educating the masses, they want to influence them. And they have a way they want to influence them, as is seen in the manner of reporting we get.

I still say the best advice I every got was from my 1st year history prof who advised us to watch the news, note the language and then try and learn about the person presenting the information to you.

At 10:18 a.m., Blogger Serenity Now! said...

Back in the day, I wanted to be a war correspondent. Perhaps it was being initiated with Desert Storm and … what was his name the Scud Stud..? But soon life took a few twists and turns and now, as a mother, that would be silly dream to hold on to.

I wonder how many people forget about the civilian casualties in the Battle of London or the Blitz?

At 10:29 p.m., Blogger The Manager said...

The indolence of the media - its automatic refusal to do any serious digging on any story, and actually inform its audience - knows no bounds. You write about something starkly true about coverage of this war, but this tendancy extends to almost all reporting of all news. It pervades the national media and often the local guys writing for the small-town dailies.

It is, in short, an international scandal, but I do not expect the media to abandon its hope of influencing the masses (as Dwayne said above) in favour of informing its readers and listeners and viewers.

Do you really want to know how indolent the media are? Run for public office, just once, and you'll come away from the experience shocked by just how bad reporters are nowadays.


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