Another WMD Post-mortem

The Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland has published a new study on "Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction," and the picture isn't pretty. "Most media outlets represented WMD as a monolithic menace, failing to adequately distinguish between weapons programs and actual weapons or to address the real differences among chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons," the report states. "Most journalists accepted the Bush administration's formulation of the 'War on Terror' as a campaign against WMD, in contrast to coverage during the Clinton era, when many journalists made careful distinctions between acts of terrorism and the acquisition and use of WMD. Many stories stenographically reported the incumbent administration's perspective on WMD, giving too little critical examination of the way officials framed the events, issues, threats, and policy options. Too few stories proffered alternative perspectives to official line, a problem exacerbated by the journalistic prioritizing of breaking-news stories and the 'inverted pyramid' style of storytelling." Nevertheless, it says, "Poor coverage of WMD resulted less from political bias on the part of journalists, editors, and producers than from tired journalistic conventions."