The Iraq Occupation Received Just 1% of News Coverage in the Third Week of February
By Jon Ponder on 3/13/2008, 7:20am PT  

Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.

The stated objective of the Bush administration's "surge" of troops into Iraq was to suppress the violence. Its unstated purpose was to get the occupation off the radar of the news networks in order to tamp down the war as a campaign issue against Republicans in this cycle. If it bleeds, it leads. Conversely, no blood, no coverage.

In that sense, the surge can be counted as one of Bush's rare successes. According to a new poll from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, coverage of the Iraq occupation by television news was reduced to barely a blip last month:

[ Pew] found that the number of news stories devoted to the war has sharply declined this year, along with professed public interest. "Coverage of the war has been virtually absent," said Pew survey research director Scott Keeter, totaling about 1 percent of the news hole between Feb. 17 and 23.

With no coverage, the public perception of the situation in Iraq has improved:

Twenty-eight percent of the public is aware that nearly 4,000 U.S. personnel have died in Iraq over the past five years, while nearly half thinks the death tally is 3,000 or fewer and 23 percent think it is higher, according to an opinion survey released yesterday.

The survey ... found that public awareness of developments in the Iraq war has dropped precipitously since last summer, as the news media have paid less attention to the conflict. In earlier surveys, about half of those asked about the death tally responded correctly.

What was the news people cared about? Figures from Pew are hardly surprising: "During the last week in January, 36 percent of those surveyed said they were most closely following campaign news, while 14 percent expressed the most interest in the stock market and 12 percent in the death of actor Heath Ledger. In contrast, 6 percent said they were most closely following coverage of Iraq."