Media must increase coverage of the Afghanistan War

September 9, 2009 — by Girish Swaminath

The media spend days discussing the legacies of journalist Walter Cronkite and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Broadcast journalists devote weeks to covering the appointment of America‚Äôs first Hispanic Supreme Court chief justice. Whole forests of newsprint covered the cause of American pop star Michael Jackson’s death. In stark contrast, news outlets at large spend very little time providing the American people with proper updates on the Afghanistan war.

The United States has been involved in a brutal conflict with the insurgent forces in Afghanistan for the past eight years, yet updates on the war’s developments in the media are relatively invisible in comparison to coverage of the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Billy Mays. The American public is shockingly unaware of the situation relating to the Taliban and the troops stationed in Afghanistan. Some Americans possess no knowledge that the war even exists. It is appalling to hear that people can be ignorant to such an extent about the war. Yet the blame for this astounding degree of ignorance cannot be entirely placed on the shoulders of Americans–this time, the national media are just as guilty of maintaining this status quo. According to TyndallReport.com’s database of news stories on evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC, the networks averaged only around one story for every two weeks during the first half of 2009.

These alarming statistics prove that not only have reporters failed to live up to their journalistic responsibilities by not adequately drawing attention to the war in Afghanistan, but they have also committed acts of utter disrespect to the families of the troops overseas. The patriotism these soldiers have demonstrated by sacrificing their lives for the sake of their country is barely, if at all, recognized by the national media. Consequently, since the American public knows little about the tireless efforts and despicable conditions the troops need to suffer through, support for the Americans in Afghanistan does not come close to the magnitude of help seen during the infamous Iraq war.

It should be mentioned, however, that news networks such as CNN and FOX News have often done a fantastic job in terms of ensuring that people are well aware of what’s happening with the Iraq War. Every night, CNN not only mentions the name of soldiers killed in action in Iraq and but also covers all related news stories. Especially during the Bush administration, the Iraq War dominated headlines to such an extent that the news stories became redundant and that Bush’s presidential approval ratings drastically plummeted, as Americans deemed him the main cause of the war. This displays the full extent of power journalism holds over public opinion. If the coverage of a war can leash the power of an ineffective U.S. president, what could thorough reporting on the Afghanistan war do for America?

Currently, though, there are barely any reports on the war in Afghanistan and the news networks seem largely unconcerned about the dearth of information reaching the American people. However, despite the fact that the statistics of death rates are clearly higher in the Iraq War and the impact on the American economy is more significant than that of the Afghanistan war, the media must fulfill their journalistic duties by providing people with more details about the Afghan conflict, at least in order to honor the sacrifices of the soldiers fighting there.