December 18, 2007

The Portrait from Iraq - How the Press Has Covered Events on the Ground

November: A Surge for the Surge?

What happened in the coverage in November, when public opinion continued to improve but beyond the scope of our main study? A supplemental analysis of the coverage suggests a shift in tenor, to one of more promise than peril.Examining data gathered on a daily basis for the New Coverage Index, there are signs that November represented something of a turning point in coverage from Iraq. Whether it proves to be a temporary one will depend on the course of events. But there were two substantial changes in coverage from October to November.

First, the U.S. surge was a big topic during the month. Of all the coverage from inside Iraq, roughly 12% was directly about the surge policy—about four times the amount the subject received in the previous three months. And reading those stories in a qualitative way, the messages of success appeared roughly three times as often as they had a month earlier.

The second shift was a falling back in the overall number of stories about events from Iraq. The main study finds an initial decline in July, which then bumped back up again in October—largely due to intense coverage of the Blackwater controversy. This additional analysis suggests that coverage dipped back down again in November, validation, perhaps, of the old adage that no news is good news.