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[infowar.de] No pics, no thrill, no fun: Neue Herausforderung für Kriegsberichterstatter
Man kann es wirklich nur zynisch, dumm und inkompetent nennen, wenn, so wie hier die WPO aus Mangel an Bildern, einen Mangel an notwendigem Erklärungs- und Verständnisbedarf der US Medienlandschaft konzediert.
CNN dürfte ja besonders betroffen sein, da sie diesmal eben keine Exklusiv-Rechte haben, sondern nur als Wiederverkäufer von Al-Jazeera aufreten.
The Fog of War
From the New Ground Zero, A Spectral Patchwork Of Sound and Fury
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 8, 2001; Page C01
It is a war without pictures, other than those eerie, greenish night-vision shots with flashes of light that may or may not signify destruction from the skies.
But while the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan yesterday was sketchily described, rather than seen, on television, the elusive, bearded figure behind the attacks on America emerged in a strange bit of videotaped propaganda.
ABC's Peter Jennings wasn't sure at first, but it was indeed Osama bin Laden, sitting in a camouflage jacket and wielding a microphone before a background of gray stone. Although bin Laden's diatribe was taped, it was striking to watch him declare while the bombs were dropping: "I swear by God, God the greatest . . . anyone who lives in the United States will not feel safe."
"The face and voice of the enemy," Jennings said.
"The whole thing, I thought, was chilling," said CNN's Aaron Brown.
"He has made the best case against himself" as responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, said NBC's Tom Brokaw.
What unfolded on the networks was talking-head television, secondhand television, with anchors, correspondents, retired generals and Middle East experts amid an array of maps, graphics, warplane photos and file footage. There was live coverage, of course, of addresses by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a news conference by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who said rather antiseptically that he wanted "to raise the cost of doing business" for terrorists). But mostly journalists offered tentative descriptions, often from unnamed sources, of the U.S. and British bombardment.
Despite the gravity of the moment, Fox and most CBS stations stuck with pro football, while NBC switched to extreme biking and skateboarding in late afternoon. CBS Executive Vice President Gil Schwartz said the network offered both war coverage and a football feed and local stations made the decision, with most opting for the NFL (including Washington's WUSA, which even stuck with the post-game show). "A determination was made that lacking breaking news, the sports events would go on," Schwartz said.
Didn't this qualify as breaking news? "We have quite a bit of interesting analysis, but we're still waiting for pictures," Schwartz said, noting that in some markets Dan Rather's coverage aired on UPN stations owned by CBS's parent. CBS was still pondering whether to broadcast last night's Emmy Awards when the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences canceled the show.
In the murky reports issuing from Afghanistan, actions that speak louder than words and words that tell more than video. MSNBC via AP
In one backstage battle, the other networks rebelled against CNN's attempt to claim exclusive rights to the night-vision bombing footage supplied by al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based network that aspires to become the CNN of the Arab world. Rival networks simply grabbed the satellite footage, which CNN kept labeling "exclusive."
While the networks shared footage during the attacks on New York and Washington, said NBC spokeswoman Barbara Levin, "when America strikes back, CNN chose a different path despite requests that they make their material available. . . . We decided that the concept of fair use applies here."
CNN President Walter Isaacson said a top executive went to Qatar in July to hammer out an affiliate relationship with al-Jazeera. "That's how we cover the world," he said. "In a wartime situation, it's inappropriate to try to worry about people picking it up without permission. It's just not something we're concerned about now." CNN officials said they are not paying for the footage and that other networks had tried to strike similar deals with al-Jazeera.
Al-Jazeera, owned in part by the Qatari government, enjoys unusual access both to bin Laden and to Afghanistan's Taliban rulers. Created in 1996, it has become the most popular television service in the Arab world because it presents opposition views and has focused heavily on the Palestinian revolt against Israel.
U.S. officials recently complained that the network is heavily weighted with anti-American and anti-Western views, but al-Jazeera's chief executive has dismissed such concerns as "blatantly untrue."
In the late morning yesterday, MSNBC was the first to report that U.S. attacks appeared "imminent." Once they began, reporters popped up, sometimes by videophone, from Pakistan and Afghanistan, but unlike in the Persian Gulf War, their information was rarely based on what they had seen.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour quoted sources as saying one wave of attacks hit near Kandahar, near where Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar lives. "We understand from military analysts that any attacks would avoid civilian infrastructure," Amanpour said.
"This military business is an imperfect science," CNN's Brown reminded her.
NBC's Ron Allen reported from Islamabad that the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan was denouncing the assault as a "terrorist act." NBC's Tom Aspell said from Afghanistan that there was a "lack of heavy antiaircraft fire." Soon afterward, NBC's Dana Lewis, also in Afghanistan, said that "we've been hearing a number of explosions -- two or three in the last hour." It was hard to get any sense of the scope of the attacks.
As the cable networks switched to "America Strikes Back" logos, MSNBC's Brian Williams described some of the warplanes involved by saying, "If the viewers can picture in their mind's eye . . ."
There were a few minor coups. Jennings, for instance, snared a telephone interview with Abdullah, foreign minister of the Afghan rebels known as the Northern Alliance.
But for the most part, confusion reigned. CNN showed al-Jazeera footage of a Taliban minister claiming that "we shot down a plane" during the attacks -- an assertion denied by the Pentagon. "There is no way for us to verify any of this," Brown said.
At 5 p.m. on Fox News, anchor Shepard Smith asked reporter Steve Harrigan in Afghanistan whether he knew anything about reports of a second wave of attacks on Kabul. "No, Shepard," Harrigan said by phone, "but you can really sense a buzz of activity here among the opposition" to the Taliban.
When CBS returned to the Washington airwaves, viewers saw Rather look down and read from a Reuters dispatch. "Dateline, Kabul," he said. "Strong explosions rocked the northern districts of Kabul today . . ."
America's new war was not available in Technicolor.
Howard Kurtz hosts CNN's weekly media program.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
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