GRIID releases new study of local paper's recent coverage of Afghanistan war

by Jeff Smith, GRIID

Today, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy published a new 100-day study of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press coverage of the US occupation of Afghanistan. The study began in late May of 2009 and was concluded on September 2.

We looked at all stories published related to what the Pentagon now calls the Af-Pak War, since it includes US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There were a total of 24 stories during this 100-day period, 18 were national media sources and Press reporters wrote six stories.

A summary of our findings are:

  • The Majority of the sources used in the stories were US Military or Government officials.
  • Articles that focused on Afghanistan society or the Taliban insurgents were overwhelmingly negative.
  • US soldier deaths received significant attention, but Afghan civilian deaths were rarely mentioned.
  • Independent perspectives or Afghani voices were virtually non-existent.
  • The August Afghan Presidential Election was only mentioned once in the entire 100-day period.
  • The bulk of the articles published were framed in such a way as to accept, and in some cases, even endorse the Pentagon rationale for the US military mission in Afghanistan.

This new GRIID study is timely for many reasons. First, the Obama administration is now discussing whether or not to increase US troop levels in Afghanistan. Secondly, the Press editorial for Sunday, September 20th essentially advocated an increase in US troop levels for Afghanistan. The editorial states, “Now isn’t the time to draw back from a war that is crucial to American security and has helped keep Islamic extremists off balance and on the run.” Like much of the coverage during the 100-day period, the editorial did not verify or substantiate their claims that the US occupation of Afghanistan in making US citizens any safer.

We are encouraging our readers to look at the report and then communicate with the Grand Rapids Press. Since the Press is the only local daily newspaper in circulation in Grand Rapids, it is important that they consider what impact their coverage has on critical issues like the war in Afghanistan.

We think it is important that Press consider using national and international news sources other than the ones they currently rely on. There needs to be more Afghan perspectives and independent, non-partisan sources used when reporting on a war that is both costly in terms of human life.

article originally published at GRIID.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey