Beyond the Front Lines: How the News Media Cover a World Shaped by War

Philip M. Seib, Author
Philip M. Seib, Author Palgrave MacMillan $29.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4039-6547-9
Reviewed on: 05/01/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Open Ebook - 185 pages - 978-1-281-36754-9
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This thoughtful study examines the fraught relationship of the news media to warfare through the lens of the war in Iraq. Journalism professor Seib notes many revolutionary aspects of the conflict's coverage, including the rise of Arab news organizations, such as Al Jazeera, that challenge Western viewpoints, the growing importance of Internet news circulation and the advent of cheap, portable satellite technology that permits real-time reporting straight from the front. Given the insatiable demand of cable networks and Web sites for news, journalists covering Iraq faced greater pressure than ever before to sacrifice accuracy and depth for speed. At the same time, Seib writes, the overall tone of""cheerleading"" and""boosterism"" in American coverage of the war raised the perennial conundrum of whether the media's primary role is to bolster support for the troops or maintain an independent, critical stance that will stimulate public debate. Seib explores these issues through a combination of academic theory and a close reading of the coverage from the war. Particularly acute is his analysis of the embedding of journalists with military units, a system he says yielded vivid but limited close-ups of the fighting that risked missing the forest for the trees. Seib worries that as the American media's capacity to capture the action grows, its commitment to in-depth international news reporting has waned, leaving the public without the political and historical context it needs to understand wars waged in its name.
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