The war in Iraq is easily the biggest news story of this decade, possibly this generation. More than 130,000 Americans are serving there. More than 4,000 have died since the invasion.
And yet ABC, CBS and NBC have pulled full-time correspondents from the country as the television networks’ focus shifts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a piece in the New York Times.
That’s because of rising tensions in Afghanistan and dipping violence in Iraq. Many media outlets, television networks included, are trimming staff and expenses, and the maintaining a Baghdad bureau is pricey.
According to the Times, the three networks are maintaining skeleton crews of producers and Iraqi employees to react to breaking news. Correspondents will fly in for specific stories.
(Of course, newspapers and magazines are also cutting their presence in Baghdad, though The News Tribune’s parent company, The McClatchy Co., maintains a full-time bureau.)
TV evening news broadcasts are also de-emphasizing Iraq. The three networks combined to devote 423 minutes to Iraq this year through Dec. 19, according to the Times. Last year it was 1,888 through the same timeframe. (There also wasn’t a full-fledged presidential election last year.)
The habits of American viewers also plays a role, former NBC News correspondent Mike Boettcher told the Times.
"Americans like their wars movie length and with a happy ending," he said. "If the war drags on and there is no happy ending, Americans start to squirm in their seats. In the case of television news, they began changing the channel when a story from Iraq appeared."
(U.S. Army photo)