Thursday, November 09, 2006

The problem with a democracy and a free press

James Q. Wilson on why he's not upset by close elections:
Given press coverage of our efforts in Iraq, I am surprised that 90% of the public do not want us out right now.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2005, nearly 1,400 stories appeared on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news. More than half focused on the costs and problems of the war, four times as many as those that discussed the successes. About 40% of the stories reported terrorist attacks; scarcely any reported the triumphs of American soldiers and Marines. The few positive stories about progress in Iraq were just a small fraction of all the broadcasts.

When the Center for Media and Public Affairs made a nonpartisan evaluation of network news broadcasts, it found that during the active war against Saddam Hussein, 51% of the reports about the conflict were negative. Six months after the land battle ended, 77% were negative; in the 2004 general election, 89% were negative; by the spring of 2006, 94% were negative. This decline in media support was much faster than during Korea or Vietnam.
The founders supported freedom of the press because it was one way to assure robust debate. They assumed that there would never be the kind of monopoly of opinion that there is in the media today.

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