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Jewish World Review April 4, 2003 / 1 Nisan, 5763

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Newsweeklies come back with graphic look at war


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It is the images of war that make the newsmagazines worth reading this week.

Time, Newsweek and U.S News & World Report each play catch-up with our war in Iraq, which is great TV but has yielded mostly video shot from great distances or fuzzy nighttime combat footage.

But look at the dozens of clear, intimate, powerful images of war captured by Time, Newsweek and U.S. News. Study the close-ups: Marines in sandstorms. Terrified, bloodied Iraqi children. A Special Forces sniper squad at work in northern Iraq. Dead Iraqi fighters. Bodies of dead Marines being covered by their comrades.

They are not especially graphic images. But they are not pretty, and - as Time and Newsweek's editors obviously know and intended - they don't exactly serve the PR or propaganda needs of the Bush administration.

No student of media subjectivity will ever accuse the editors of being objective on their covers. Time's features a Marine with a wounded face and asks "What Will It Take to Win?" Newsweek's shows a Marine helping his wounded buddy and asks "How Bloody?"

U.S. News' cover photo of a U.S. soldier and the headline "Attack Mode" could be an Army recruitment poster, however. And, unlike Time and Newsweek, its tone and slant are not so relentlessly negative. Nor is its coverage focused on spilled American blood or doubts and worries about the way the war is going and how it was planned.

Along with their basic coverage, Time and Newsweek each take hilariously subjective, though ultimately credible, looks at the differences between the war coverage we see on TV and what Arabs see on Al-Jazeera TV and elsewhere in the Middle East. (Satellite-TV owners can see round-ups of Arab newscasts nightly in English on the WorldLinkTV channel.)

Time's James Poniewozik says Arab networks, while tilted against America for obvious reasons, often are more accurate and provide fuller coverage. Plus, their newscasts are less weighed down by official spokesmen and do a better job of showing - from the streets - that war is not a sluggish TV miniseries, it is hell.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter obviously saw his article on Arab TV as a chance to beat up on the Pentagon's failed propaganda war and on TV networks, especially the conservative flag-wavers at Fox News Channel, which he essentially says is our equivalent of Al-Jazeera.

The New Yorker continues covering the war, too, mostly in words. It offers one photo - an artsy close-up of a Baghdad boy injured in an explosion.

You won't hear a soundtrack of war drums or patriotic ditties underneath the report of its correspondent in Baghdad, though its man in northern Iraq says the Kurds there are even more in favor of Operation Iraqi Freedom than Fox or Ollie North.

Meanwhile, speaking of biased reporting, Seymour Hersh's "Offense and Defense" is a comic book example. Fiercely subjective, relentlessly negative, it has too many unnamed ex-CIA spooks and anonymous Pentagon sources to count.

Hersh's premise - that the war is "bogging down" because Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld bullied the Pentagon's generals into accepting a war plan with too few ground troops - might turn out to be true. But it ain't very credible.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald