Iraq re-emerged in the U.S. media in February 2009, sort of. During the four weeks of the month Iraq was in the top ten stories according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism twice. That happened in the first week, February 2 to 8 and the last February 23 to March 1. Also of note is the fact that Iraq broke into the top five stories in the country for the firs time since October 2008.
Iraq was in and out of the news in February 2009. In the opening week Iraq was the number four story in the country, but only received 2% of overall coverage. That was when the results of the provincial elections were finally announced. For the next two weeks however, February 9 to 15 and 16 to 22, the war disappeared from the headlines. From February 23 to March 1 Iraq re-emerged as the number 3 and number 10 stories. At number 3 was President Obama’s announcement that he would pull most American troops out of the country by the end of 2011, which garnered 6% of American news coverage. At number 10 were events in Iraq, which included the charges against Iraqi parliamentarian Mohammad al-Daini for involvement in a number of insurgent attacks including a bombing of the legislature in 2007, and the re-opening of the Iraqi Museum. That received 2% of all stories in the U.S. media.
The last time Iraq broke the top five stories in America was the week of October 6 to 12, 2008. At that time Iraq was at number 4 even though it was only 1% of all stories. That was the week that Christians were attacked in Mosul, and the U.S. and Iraq were negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement.
Overall, average American coverage of Iraq was up for February compared to the previous month, but about average for the last six months of 2008. In February the war averaged 2.5% of all U.S. media coverage. That was double the amount of reporting in January when Iraq only received 1.25%. February matched the last six months of 2008 when it was between 2-3% of all stories. That is still below the average of 2007 when the war was 25% of the news and was consistently in the top five. If not for the President’s speech on his new Iraq policy, the topic might have dropped off the radar for the rest of the month. The coverage shows that only big events such as elections and announcements from Washington will get the American media’s attention, because it is spending most of its time on the current economic crisis and the new Obama administration.
Baker, Peter, “With Pledges to Troops and Iraqis, Obama Details Pullout,” New York Times, 2/27/09
Meyers, Steven Lee, “Iraq Museum Reopens Six Years After Looting,” New York Times, 2/23/09
Mohammed, Riyadh, “Election Results: Who’s Up, Who’s Down,” Baghdad Bureau Blog, New York Times, 2/6/09
Pew Research center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, “PEJ News Coverage Index: Feb. 2-8, 2009, The News Narrative Turns Bearish On Obama,” 2/9/09
- “PEJ News Coverage Index: Feb. 9-15, 2009, Stimulus Success Shifts The Storyline,” 2/17/09
- “PEJ News Coverage Index: February 16-22, 2009, Fresh Challenges, New Debates Drive A Grim Economy Story,” 2/23/09
- “PEJ News Coverage Index: February 23-March 1, 2009, The New Obama Narrative: “Change” Was An Understatement,” 3/4/09
Santora, “Iraqi Lawmaker Is Charged With Masterminding an Attack on Parliament,” New York Times, 2/22/09