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Iraq

“The Media Has Dropped the Ball on This Conflict”

ware_6-11.JPGThe New York Observer has a wide-ranging article about the media coverage of the Iraq War, as told through the eyes of many of the correspondents who have spent significant time in Baghdad.

“As the American press corps gets older, wearier — and simultaneously younger and more untested as the veterans leave — there are truths that some of the reporters of Baghdad have learned about the war in Iraq,” reports the Observer.

CNN correspondent Michael Ware is critical of the lack of focus on reporting from the region. “This is the Vietnam War of our generation. This conflict is going to have repercussions that far exceed that of an Indo-Chinese, essentially, civil war,” he says. “Yet for a litany of reasons, which may or may not be legitimate, from cost to security to audience fatigue, the media has dropped the ball on this conflict. It is a tragic indictment on the Fourth Estate.”

kealy_6-11.JPGCourtney Kealy of FNC has seen the American public turn on the reporters and turn off the coverage: “People say to me, what’s the real story in Iraq? I say, read the books that have come out and won Pulitzers. Look at my friends’ articles. Look at the stories I’ve done. They’re not looking, and they’re not reading; they don’t want to.”

After the jump, Baghdad correspondents who say part of the reason for the lack of coverage is that good news is coming from the region.

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McClellan Makes the Rounds

This morning he was on Today, tonight he’s on Countdown, but in between Scott McClellan gives his first evening newscast interview to Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News.

TVNewser also hears that Fox News Channel may be working up an interview with McClellan that would also include Fox News analyst, and former Bush administration colleague, Karl Rove.

> Update: Martha Raddatz also interviewed McClellan for tonight’s World News.

Yellin: “Let Me Clarify What I Said and What I Experienced.”

JYellin_5.29.jpgCNN’s Jessica Yellin is responding to her comments last night on Anderson Cooper 360 in which she talked about “corporate executives” who tried to make sure “that this was a war presented in way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation.”

On the AC360 blog Yellin writes:

…let me clarify what I said and what I experienced.

First, this involved my time on MSNBC where I worked during the lead up to war. I worked as a segment producer, overnight anchor, field reporter, and briefly covered the White House, the Pentagon, and general Washington stories.

Also, let me say: no, senior corporate leadership never asked me to take out a line in a script or re-write an anchor intro. I did not mean to leave the impression that corporate executives were interfering in my daily work; my interaction was with senior producers. What was clear to me is that many people running the broadcasts wanted coverage that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the country at the time. It was clear to me they wanted their coverage to reflect the mood of the country.

And now I’m going back to work covering the Puerto Rico primary from San Juan.

Really? Any MSNBC senior producers care to respond? (wait a minute, I was a senior producer at MSNBC at the time.)

>Update: MSNBC VP of communications Jeremy Gaines responds to TVNewser:

Jessica Yellin was a freelance overnight news reader at MSNBC for one year who was not renewed. She had little to no contact with editorial decision makers, and certainly was not a part of the editorial process on a daily basis. Given how her story has changed so dramatically since her appearance on CNN — her current employer — less than 24 hours ago, we find it hard to believe that anyone would take this disgruntled former employee’s comments seriously.

Yellin To Write About Her Iraq War Comments

Yellin_5.29.jpgTVNewser has learned CNN’s Jessica Yellin is writing a blog post that will clarify her controversial comments last night on Anderson Cooper 360.

Politico’s Michael Calderone has the clip in which Yellin talks about “corporate executives” who tried to make sure “that this was a war presented in way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings.” Calderone writes:

…a shocked Cooper jumped in, asking, “You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?”

“Not in that exact…. They wouldn’t say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces,” Yellin said. “They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes, that was my experience.”

Yellin worked for MSNBC during the run-up to the Iraq war. She joined ABC News in July 2003.

Let The McClellan Bookings Begin

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He’s (almost) all the talk on the cablers today, now you’ll be able to hear from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan himself. McClellan will appear tomorrow on Today to talk about his new book which the White House calls “sad.” Former top Bush adviser Karl Rove, now an analyst for Fox News, says excerpts he’s read sound more like they were written by a “left-wing blogger” than by his former colleague.

ABC’s Good Morning America has no plans to book McClellan at this time, while CBS’s The Early Show tells TVNewser they are “discussing a possible interview.”

> Update: McClellan’s first cable news interview will be tomorrow night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Analyzing the Analysts: Mostly Gone (From the Airwaves), But Not Forgotten

NYT3.jpgIn tomorrow’s NYTimes you’ll find a 7,500 word “examination” by David Barstow on the dozens of retired Generals and Colonels who take to the cable and broadcast airwaves to inform Americans as “military analysts”. Barstow also writes about the “Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage.” The Times sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of documents as the basis for their story.

The documents refer to the analysts as “message force multipliers” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages.” One analyst even offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.”

NYT1.jpgFormer MSNBC military analyst Ken Allard is among several TV talking heads interviewed for the story. “I felt we’d been hosed,” Allard said as conditions deteriorated in Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, said it is “a bit incredible” to think retired military officers could be “wound up” and turned into “puppets of the Defense Department.” Another, former FNC analyst Gen. Paul Vallely told The Times, “I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south,” But on the air, at the time, Vallely told Alan Colmes, “You can’t believe the progress.” He predicted the insurgency would be “down to a few numbers” within months.

Barstow also evaluates whether the military analysts, many of whom worked for companies trying to gain contracts, were given special DOD access for their businesses. “Not related at all,” said CNN analyst Gen. Donald Shepperd. He pointed out that many in the Pentagon held CNN “in the lowest esteem.”

• How the networks deal with their military analysts’ outside business dealings, after the jump…

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“Who’s Directing This Show? He Must Be An Idiot”

Emmy_917.jpg…asks Washington Post critic Tom Shales about last night’s cover-ups during the Emmy telecast on FoxTV. Shales was a guest on MSNBC talking about the larger issue of censorship. The backstory, in case you missed it: instead of using the word “sleeping,” Ray Romano used that other word that applies to people when they go to bed. Later, after her win for best actress, Sally Field used a God-related swear word to describe war. That too, was censored.

But instead of a bleep, the camera cut away to a wide shot. “There’s such a sense of paranoia and fear now,” says Shales. [The networks] are afraid about lip readers and about someone seeing what someone says…and it looks terrible on the air.”

Shales also used the Field expletive to go after the network that carried the telecast. “Fox, of course, has a well-earned reputation as a very conservative company run by Rupert Murdoch…and I wonder if she would have been censored if she hadn’t been talking about the war.”

Williams, Wallace, Stephanopoulos: Lunch Tales

President Bush hosted another lunch today for journalists, (ahead of tonight’s address) and those journalists are talking about it:

NBC’s Brian Williams: “A number of television journalists gathered for lunch with the president at the White House today — a practice becoming more and more common when this president has a major speech to deliver. Vice President Cheney attended but did not speak.”

FNC’s Chris Wallace: “It was a different George Bush than I have seen before. I have been privileged enough to go to three or four of these lunches over the years. There is a certain lame duck, sense of, ‘I’m at the end of my term, I don’t need to worry about polls.’ He said repeatedly ‘presidents who worry about polls are lousy presidents.’”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos (before the lunch): “These 1.5 to 2-hour sessions…can be incredibly illuminating. Yes, the president is never really off stage. Yes, he’s giving us his talking points. But the chance to hear him explain his policies, and to have a conversation, to see his expressions close up, to get the occasional off-the-record nugget that can be used to pursue other stories, is invaluable.”

Pres. Bush Speech: Network Plans

> Brian Williams will anchor along with Tim Russert, NBC News’ coverage of Pres. Bush’s speech tomorrow night beginning at 9:00pmET. NBC will also air the Democratic response, delivered by Sen. Jack Reed.

> Katie Couric will anchor CBS’ coverage of the event from Washington, DC. It’s not determined yet whether the network will carry the Democratic response.

> Charlie Gibson will anchor ABC’s coverage. This evening, ABC News announced it will take the Democratic response.

Starr & Petraeus

CNN just announced that Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr will interview Gen. David Petraeus today “about Iraq and his Congressional testimony.” The interview will air LIVE at approximately 1:40pmET.

Gen. Petreaus, along with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, spent an hour Monday night on Fox News Channel with anchor Brit Hume.

>More: CNN’s interview is one of several the General is doing today with all networks, including evening news anchors Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams and Katie Couric. Also, Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker will be in studio with Jim Lehrer tonight on PBS’ The NewsHour.

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