Newswatch | Newswatch

You are here

Iraq War: Faking the news

Just what sort of democratic principles are we exporting to Iraq? The Los Angeles Times reported this week that U.S. military officials are paying Iraqi newspapers to run canned, favorable "stories" that praise the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, laud the rebuilding efforts and denounce the insurgents.

While the White House was busy distancing itself from the controversy -- "We are seeking more information from the Pentagon," said spokesman Scott McClellan -- a senior military spokesman in Baghdad struck a bit closer to the mark.

Major Gen. Rick Lynch reminded reporters that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been told by an al-Qaida superior, "Remember, half the battle is the battlefield of the media."

Who's supposed to be teaching Iraqis journalistic ethics -- us or al-Zarqawi?

U.S. Sen. Hiram Johnson had it right in 1917: "The first casualty when war comes is truth."

Even the White House deferral to military commanders in Iraq seems disingenuous because the Times reports that the translation and placement of the stories is handled by a small Washington, D.C., firm called the Lincoln Group.

Richard Edelman, CEO of the Edelman public relations firm, rips the practice as "utterly unacceptable behavior" and told the Poynter Institute that it is "a perversion of our business, an intentional blurring of a clear demarcation between paid and earned media."

Here's a journalism lesson: If they're buying fake news, the real news must be really bad.

Date posted: December 2, 2005 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 9