The US media’s approach to war coverage needs a fundamental overhaul

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The US media’s approach to war coverage needs a fundamental overhaul. We need more reporting on forgotten conflicts – and more stories that shine a light on how war ravages people and leads to atrocities.

Last month, the three major American television networks spent as much or more time covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine than any other conflict in any month in the past three decades, including the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. The war in Ukraine is getting the attention it deserves, but we have seen, disturbingly, little reporting on the conflicts raging in other parts of the world. The civil war in Yemen, for example, received 92 minutes of coverage on all three broadcast networks from 2015 to 2019, compared to 562 minutes of coverage for Ukraine in March 2022 alone. Ethiopia’s Tigray War receives only occasional mentions on any channel – even though researchers estimate the conflict has killed up to 500,000 people and displaced 2 million more in less than two years. And in June 2021, just two months before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, major cable networks spent just 13 minutes reporting on what one historian called “the least reported war since.” World War I”. (That is, until it’s time for cable news to denounce the long-awaited U.S. pullout.)

Worse still, the coverage that exists tends to frame the war in the abstract: what is the strategy? Who “wins” the war? Despite recent coverage of Ukraine, the media rarely reports the devastation of war on human beings. It obscures war as a force that displaces people from their homes, robs them of their loved ones, and robs them of the chance to have a life and a future.

Throughout the coverage of the Ukraine crisis, we heard from dozens of pundits shocked that war could happen in a supposedly “civilized” country. But violence on this scale should always be horrifying. Hunger, disease and death are attributes of war, no matter where it takes place.

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

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