Saturday, May 14, 2005

Iraq War: Operation Matador and Distinctly Different Coverage

The difference in recent coverage of the war in Iraq is remarkable as I have noted in previous posts. Today, CNN and Fox News had articles about the end of Operation Matador in western Iraq. Readers of only CNN will have a much bleaker view of the war than those who read Fox News only. Here are four examples from these articles:

(1) CNN’s headline merely mentions the end of the operation with a sub-headline that notes the total deaths: “Hunt for insurgents near Syria ends; More than 125 insurgents, nine Marines dead.” Fox’s headline for their AP article declares a successful operation: “U.S.: Operation Matador in Iraq a Success.” [Note: A few minutes after posting this I noticed that CNN does have a healdine link on their home page calling the operation a success.]

(2) CNN’s first sentence includes this statement: “Marines said Saturday they "successfully completed Operation Matador," a weeklong hunt for insurgents…” Fox’s opening sentence more directly speaks to the accomplishment of the operation’s objectives: “The U.S. military wrapped up a major offensive in a remote desert region near the Syrian border Saturday, saying it had cleaned out the insurgent haven and killed more than 125 militants …” Fox also uses the term “militants” as opposed to CNN’s “insurgents.”

(3) CNN provides the facts of the story and quotes from the military. Fox does as well but paints more of a picture of the event with this statement:

FOX (highlight added): “American troops, backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships, swept through desert outposts along ancient smuggling routes, believed to be staging areas for foreign fighters who slip over the border and collect weapons to launch deadly attacks in Iraq's major cities.”

CNN provides the same information but in less dramatic fashion, using a military quote:

CNN: “"The region, an historical smuggling route and known insurgent hiding place, is used as a staging area where insurgents receive weapons and equipment and organize for attacks against the key cities of Ramadi, Falluja, Baghdad and Mosul," the U.S. military said in a written statement.”

(4) In the two statements that follow, each is stating the same basic facts. But, it is interesting to note the words that they use. Again, we see that CNN uses “insurgent” while Fox uses “militant” (see yellow highlight below). Fox’s word more strongly identifies the opponents as military enemies. Both note the Iraqi government change as a time when the insurgent attacks increased but look closely at the words each chose to use. CNN emphasizes that it is a Shiite and Kurdish dominated government which has caused conflict from the Sunnis; Fox emphasizes Iraq’s first democratic election (see blue highlight below).

CNN: The offensive was launched May 7 to counter the escalation in insurgent attacks throughout Iraq. The rise in violence coincided with the period in which the Shiite and Kurdish-dominated transitional government took power. The insurgency is regarded as largely comprised of Sunni Arabs as well as foreigners.

FOX: The U.S. assault came amid a surge of militant attacks that have killed more than 450 people in just over two weeks since Iraq's first democratically elected government was announced.

Links to the articles:,2933,156543,00.html

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