November 28, 2007

Journalists in Iraq - A Survey of Reporters on the Front Lines

Access to Sources

One of the biggest challenges is access to certain kinds of sources. The hardest to reach, according to the journalists surveyed, are Iraqi insurgents. Nine-out-of-ten journalists say insurgents are hard or nearly impossible to reach. A large majority (81%) also consider Western private contractors as being hard or nearly impossible to access, while 17% say access to contractors is possible with some effort.

 

Journalists identify Iraqi civilians as among the easiest sources to reach: four-out-of-five journalists (79%) describe access to civilians as either easy or possible with some effort.

 

This presents something of a dichotomy. If Iraqi citizens are some of the easiest sources to access, that might make them a natural focus for journalists. But, according to these journalists, the conflict’s impact on civilians is among the most under-covered topics. With declining interest among editors back home, the dynamic may be difficult to shift.

 

Journalists described U.S. military personnel as the easiest sources to get. Nearly nine-in-ten (86%) journalists surveyed consider access to the military officers as easy or doable with some effort, a number that in turn may be connected to the embedding program.

 

 

Correspondents have more divergent experiences in trying to reach American diplomats and other senior officials, most of whom live inside the Green Zone. About two-thirds (66%) of the journalists consider access to senior civilian officials as easy or possible with some effort. But more than one-in-four (26%) say the officials are hard to reach, while 7% say access is nearly impossible. And those who work for major news organizations report having more success than others.

 

Iraqi government officials are slightly more accessible. Eight in ten (80%) of the journalists say access to Iraqi officials is easy or doable with some effort. Another 17% say access is hard. Correspondents find it more difficult to reach Iraqi sectarian leaders: about half the journalists (53%) find access easy or possible with some effort. One-in-three (31%) say those leaders are hard to reach. Less than one-in-five (15%) report that access is nearly impossible.

           

Being inside the Green Zone is the prerequisite for meeting many of those sources – American military officers, American diplomats, and Iraqi government officials. They work and, in many cases, live there. Virtually all the journalists (96%) consider access to the Green Zone as essential. About three-in-four (77%) go there at least weekly.1

 

 

 

 

 


1. The Green Zone, officially called the “International Zone,” includes offices and housing for senior U.S. officials as well as the offices of the Iraqi presidency and the Iraqi parliament.