Good news, bad news and media coverage in Iraq
by Steve Dupree
So a guy walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doc, I don’t feel so good.” The doctor says, “Well, why don’t I examine you and see if we can’t get you fixed up.” After a while the doctor says, “I have some bad news and some good news for you. Which do you want first?” The guy says “Gimme the bad news, Doc, I can take it.” The doctor says, “You’ve got AIDS. You’re going to die.” The guy says, “Jesus Christ, Doc! What’s the good news?” The doctor says, “You see that nurse over there, the good-looking one?” The guy nods. The doctor says, “I’m screwing her.”
I’ve heard and/or read about God only knows how many people who bitch that only the bad news is being reported from Iraq. I would posit that it isn’t just Iraq that gets that treatment. How many times have you seen a balanced news story that combines the positive elements of a job promotion, marital bliss and compliments from the neighbors on the beauty of the yard, along with the news that the teenaged son was just killed in a car wreck?
If, God forbid, you should get the dreaded news that your spouse has a malignant tumor, is the news that your kid’s reading is improving drastically or that your presentation was well-received at work or that your new dog is learning house-training at record speed really going to get much of your attention? I think not.
Let’s face the facts. If what we got from the media on Iraq was a string of school openings, utility restoration in small towns, and pictures of happy welcoming locals, with the odd bit of a story about a car bomb or quick blurb about a soldier who had been killed, we would rightfully accuse the media of attempting to manipulate us/the news. The truth is, normalcy isn’t news, and most of the things cited as examples of good news in Iraq already existed in Saddam’s Iraq, even moreso before the sanctions we imposed (for good reason in my opinion). Normalcy is not news, especially when abnormal numbers of abnormal and socially negative events are happening all around.
The minutia of normal life in Iraq may well be of interest to historians at some point. Those who attempt to learn from our mistakes in this era will doubtless want to know all about that as well as the bad things that get reported. But most of us are not historians of any stripe. Of those of us who are actually paying attention, what we need is information that will allow us to make reasonable requests/demands of our elected officials. We need a basis for making decisions on whom we will support in upcoming elections so as to either maintain the status quo or make some changes, whichever is indicated.
Think of it as though you were sitting in that doctor’s office in the (admittedly sick) joke I opened with. What do you want to hear? Do you want to hear about all the things in your body that are unaffected and are working as designed? Should the doctor spend his time (your money) on things that will not require you to change your behavior at all? Or would you want the doctor to spend the time talking about your disease, possible treatments, behaviors you can change to positively impact your quality and length of life, and things you need to avoid?
Even here, hundreds of miles from the beach, there is plenty of sand to stick your head in if that is what you are inclined to do, it just isn’t going to improve the situation any. Until it is all there is, normalcy isn’t news.