Global Media Go to War: Role of News and Entertainment Media during the 2003 Iraq War

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Global Media Go To War: Role of News and Entertainment Media During the 2003 Iraq War. Ralph D. Berenger, ed. Spokane, WA: Marquette Books, 2004. 382 pp. $49.95 pbk.

Just as the pacification of Iraq has proved to be far more complicated than U.S. citizens were led to expect, so too the media coverage of the conflict fails to fit neatly into black-and-white descriptions.

Global Media Go To War presents the war in Iraq through the lenses of thirty essays and articles from academics and journalism professionals, as well as four editorials that provide a frame of activism. The thirty articles, edited by Ralph D. Berenger of The American University in Egypt, take a multidisciplinary approach on the assumption that a variety of spotlights illuminating the parts will best reveal the whole. Chapters include content analyses of news, frame analysis of propaganda, simple historical narratives about newcomers such as Al-Jazeera and blogs, and first-person accounts.

Like the reports filed by roughly six hundred embedded journalists in 2003, the essays provide sharp images of small slices of war. Still, one suspects that the complete picture will take months, if not years, to develop. The book aims to illuminate media effects on various audiences-Arab and Western citizens in particular-and obviously all of the evidence is not in yet. American and Iraqi elections loomed as this book went to press, and the final resolution of the domestic turmoil in Iraq still seemed far off. The final say on media effects must wait.

Nevertheless, Global Media Go To War is valuable to scholars of wartime journalism and propaganda. Its best chapters reveal many nuances that do not fit into sound bites and remind readers that covering war accurately and fairly can be hell.

For example, a chapter by Stephen D. Cooper and Jim A. Kuypers demonstrates a fundamental difference in the tone of stories filed by embedded reporters compared with those filed farther from the battle lines. The former, which seized the public's imagination with the notion of following combat in real time, consistently presented a more upbeat and active view of the war than the latter-which included, in retrospect, a healthier dose of perspective and caution. Embedding may be exciting and preferable to press pools, but embedded reports as a primary source of news are a poor way to learn about war.

Defying conventional wisdom shaped by the U.S. government and the main American television networks, AlJazeera emerges through several essays as relatively balanced, thoughtful, and liberal. …