April 30, 2008

Media Passes on Times Pentagon Piece

Texas Polygamy Raid
Petraeus takes over Central Command
Murdoch at the WSJ
Military Analysts
Larry Craig Scandal

2-The number of stories that picked up on the NYT expose about military analysts.

On April 20, The New York Times published an 8,000-word, front-page article that seemed certain to generate attention. The story, written after the paper sued to gain access to Pentagon records, detailed the close relationship between the Defense Department and some military analysts commenting on the Iraq war for television networks. According to the story, these analysts were granted access to classified information, had briefings with senior leaders including Donald Rumsfeld, were taken on tours of war zones, and in some cases, had defense-related business interests. In return, they consistently reinforced the administration’s talking points and provided a more favorable view of the war—despite some acknowledging their doubts about the information they were giving to the public.

“I felt we’d been hosed,” Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst, told The Times.

Despite these revelations, there was virtually no mainstream media follow up to The Times’ expose, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index, which monitors approximately 1,300 stories a week from 48 different outlets. Although there was some discussion of The Times scoop in the blogosphere, the Index found only two related stories in the week of April 21-27, both of them in the April 24 PBS NewsHour broadcast. In the cable news universe, where many of these analysts worked, silence greeted the story.

By way of comparison, the Texas polygamy case garnered 50 stories and General Petraeus’ promotion to head of Central Command captured 16. Even Rupert Murdoch’s latest newspaper maneuvering received twice as much attention (4 stories). But the analyst story did generate more attention than news that Senator Larry Craig’s legal fees in his airport bathroom bust now exceeded $400,000 (1 story).