June 21, 2007

A Media Mystery

Methodology

This analysis examines the mainstream media’s coverage of private security companies (PSCs) in Iraq over the course of the war. It looked at stories that appeared in mainstream media outlets that are archived on the Lexis/Nexis database.

The time period examined was from the start of the war Thursday, March 20, 2003 to Thursday, April 1, 2007 – a period of 49 months.

There were 441 domestic outlets included in PEJ’s Lexis/Nexis search, which mirrors the Lexis/Nexis universe for general news sources. This list was then cut down to focus solely on domestic mainstream local and national news outlets, removing foreign and specialty publications, TV and radio programs and Web sites.

To gauge the coverage over the 4-plus years of the war PEJ paired the word “Iraq” with four key search phrases: “private security companies,” “private military contractors,” “private military firms,” and “private military companies.”

In total PEJ found 93 out of the 441 U.S. media outlets that aired or published stories including at least one of these four key search terms. Removing straight news accounts about casualties or incidents, we were left with a small list of “issue” stories that at least touched on the idea of PSCs in the U.S. media.

“Private security companies” turned up in 102 accounts in U.S. outlets. “Private military contractors” showed up in 122 pieces. “Private military companies” appeared in 61 stories. The phrase “private military firms” appeared in 27.

Those stories were then culled to remove duplicates and to count only once stories that used two or more of the PEJ search terms – such as a story that used both “private military contractors” and “private military firms” to address the issue of PSCs. The same story appearing in different newspapers was counted each it appeared. And the same story appearing on a TV outlet at different times was counted each time it aired.

Using this system, PEJ arrived at 248 stories in 93 mainstream outlets over the 49 months we searched.

A list of the outlets that ran at least one story is listed below:

Associated Press

ABC News

Albany Times-Union

Albuquerque Journal

American Prospect

American Spectator

Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times

Atlantic Monthly

Austin American Statesman

Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Daily Record

Bangor Daily News

Boston Globe

Boston Herald

Buffalo News

Business North Carolina

Business Week

Charleston (WV) Gazette

Charleston (SC) Post and Courier

Charlotte Observer

Chattanooga Times Free Press

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Sun Times

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Contra Costa Times

CNN

Christian Science Monitor

Daily Bruin

Dallas Morning News

Deseret Morning News

Durham (NC) Herald-Sun

Economist

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Policy

Fox News

Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel

Ft. Worth Star Telegram

Grand Rapids Press

Great Falls Tribune

Greensboro News & Record

Harpers

Houston Chronicle

Kansas City Star

Los Angeles Times

Lebanon (PA) Daily News

Lexington (KY) Herald Leader

Las Vegas Journal Review

Market Watch

Miami Herald

Nation

Newark Star Ledger

NewsHour

Northern Star

Norwich Bulletin

National Public Radio

New Yorker

(NY) Daily News

New York Post

New York Times

Orlando Sentinel

People

Philly Inquirer

Philly Tribune

Pittsburg Post-Gazette

Raleigh News & Observer

Richmond Times

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Salon

San Mateo Times

San Diego Union-Tribune

Seattle Post Intelligencer

Seattle Times

Slate

San Francisco Chronicle

San Jose Mercury News

The State (Columbia S.C.)

Tacoma News Tribune

Tallahassee Democrat

Time

Toledo Blade

Tulsa World

USA Today

UPI

Vanity Fair

Virginian Pilot

Washington Post

Washingtonpost.com

Washington Times

Washington Monthly

Weekly Standard

Wichita Eagle

Wichita Business Journal