It’s Hard To Cover What’s Happening In Iraq From A Baghdad Hotel Room

by John Hawkins | June 28, 2004 6:47 pm

It practically goes without saying that the coverage of the war in Iraq has been so bad that most people can learn more about what’s actually going on from letters written by soldiers in theatre than they can from the New York Times or CNN.

But, why is that the case? Is it liberal bias? Are left-wingers who hate the military and hope Bush will fail deliberately slanting the news to hurt their ideological adversaries? Could it be myopic reporters who see every conflict as Vietnam?

I’m sure all of those things factor into the miserable job the mainstream press has done covering the war. However maybe the problem is that the press in Baghdad might as well be in Akron, Ohio if they’re NOT GOING TO LEAVE THEIR HOTEL.

Just read this Johnny-on-the-spot report from Janet Reitman[1] at Rolling Stone and you’ll understand…

“When I arrive in Baghdad in April, most American journalists are holed up in their rooms, reporting the war by remote: scanning the wires, working their cell phones, watching broadcasts of Al Jazeera. In many cases, they’ve been reduced to relying on sources available to anyone with an Internet connection. Editorial writers might like to compare Iraq to Vietnam, but reporters on the ground say there’s no comparison. In Vietnam, journalists rode Hondas to the front. In Iraq, they rarely venture into the streets. When they do, they hide behind the smoked windows of their armored vehicles, called “hard cars.” At least nine Western journalists have been killed since the occupation began, not because they are reporters but simply because they are Westerners. Fear has become an accepted part of life in Baghdad, as inevitable as military roadblocks. While Arabic and European media such as The Guardian and Le Monde manage to cover the war on the ground, American reporters seldom interview actual Iraqis. Instead, they talk to U.S. officials who are every bit as isolated as they are, or rely on local stringers and fixers, several of whom have been killed while working for Americans. “We live in a bubble,” grumbles one AP reporter. “If we know one percent of what’s going on in Iraq, we’re lucky.”

Most of the journalism coming out of Baghdad is produced within the fortified compound that contains the Sheraton Ishtar and the Palestine Hotel. Together, the two buildings house the bureaus of Fox, CNN, several major newspapers and wire services, as well as a rotating crew of photographers and independent journalists of all stripes. Towering side by side over the Tigris River, the hotels are a virtual fortress, ringed by coils of razor wire and surrounded by fifteen-foot-high cement barriers known as “blast walls.” To enter the compound, one must endure body searches at two checkpoints, navigate a corridor that runs alongside a fortified lane for armored vehicles and answer questions posed by the U.S. troops that patrol the compound day and night.”

Whatever you call sitting in your hotel room, surfing the internet, talking to other liberal reporters, & watching Al Jazeera, it sure isn’t reporting the news. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know how many reporters are sending back news from Iraq without talking to any Iraqis except the maids who are cleaning their rooms and the bartenders who are serving them drinks? Oh, but they’re in a Baghdad hotel room so they just ooze credibility…

  1. Janet Reitman:

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