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May 13, 2008

U.S. Media Embedding Program in
Iraq
Accomplishes Mission

Sociological analysis reveals “military victory” in
Pentagon’s embedded media program in Iraq war

Washington, DC — In the long-standing battle for journalistic freedom, the victor is the Bush Administration and its embedded media program in Iraq, according to sociologist Andrew M. Lindner, writing in the spring issue of the American Sociological Association's Contexts magazine.

In the only sociological study to date of the substantive content of media coverage during the first six weeks of the Iraq war, Lindner found that journalists embedded with American troops emphasized military successes more often than they covered the invasion's consequences for Iraqi citizens.

"The embedded program proved to be a Pentagon victory because it kept reporters focused on the horrors facing the troops, not the horrors of the civilian war experience," said Lindner, who is completing his doctoral dissertation at Penn State University and will join the sociology faculty at Minnesota's Concordia College, Moorhead, in fall 2008. "The end result: a communications victory for an administration that hoped to build support for the war by depicting it as a successful mission with limited cost."

Lindner and his colleagues examined disparities in the news coverage of the three primary types of journalists reporting from Iraq: reporters embedded in the Pentagon's program, those stationed in Baghdad and independent reporters with freedom to roam the country.

His findings reveal how the context of the embedding program may have limited reporter access and hindered the spread of war-related information to the wider public. According to Lindner's research, embedded reporters most extensively covered the soldier's experience of the war. Nine out of ten articles by these reporters quoted soldiers.

"With the vast majority of embedded coverage citing U.S. military sources, as long as the soldiers stayed positive, the story stayed positive," Lindner said.

Baghdad-stationed reporters provided the most extensive coverage of the consequences of the invasion. Half of the news articles produced by these journalists reported on civilian fatalities, compared with just 12 percent of the articles by embedded reporters.

While embedded reporters were most likely to tell the military's story, and local consequences were well represented by Baghdad-stationed reporters, independent reporters produced the most balanced coverage depicting both sides of the story.

These reporters, not limited by location or source availability, covered combat and military movement nearly as frequently as embedded reporters but were at least twice as likely to cite Iraqi sources and cover civilian fatalities.

Lindner's conclusions are the result of a content analysis of 742 news articles written by 156 English-language print reporters in Iraq during the first six weeks of the war. The study's findings, combined with Lindner's telling of the history of war reporting, shed light on the relationship between the media and the military as the United States' government debates continued military involvement in Iraq and potential invasions of other countries.

A PDF of the article is available online at www.contexts.org.

For more information or to request an interview with Andrew Lindner, contact Jackie Cooper (202-247-9871, jcooper@asanet.org).

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Contexts (www.contexts.org), a magazine published by the American Sociological Association, provides the lay public with an accessible and thought-provoking look at modern life through the lens of the research and expertise of prominent U.S. sociologists. Edited by a team from the University of Minnesota's sociology department, the magazine offers provocative sociological ideas and research to examine everyday experiences through feature articles, book reviews, cultural analysis and engaging photography.

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.