Afghanistan War: Media Attention Drops Significantly

America’s longest military engagement has drastically lost the mass media’s attention – at least according to a study on journalism.org. Even though the conflict is far from being solved and NATO troops suffered relatively severe casualties this June (29 soldiers lost their lives).

Last year, signs were still pointing in a different direction: After attention peaked to an all-time high during 2009  (caused for instance by President Obama’s disputed decision to send more troops to Afghanistan), the possibility arose that the war would become a “major ongoing story“. However, the findings imply now quite the opposite. The authors conclude:

[…] this year’s coverage trajectory seems to suggest that the longest-running conflict in U.S. history is still having a difficult time getting into the headlines. (ibid.)

Unfortunately, the researchers do not explain the applied methodology for this study. Thus, their findings are not traceable in full detail. Nevertheless, the presented chart hints to a certain imbalance concerning the war’s ‘news-worthiness’. The Afghanistan Conflict surpassed  the Vietnam War by now as the longest American military involvement – in a foreign country and in general. It is remarkable that despite this fact and a wide range of economical, social, military, and political problems, which remain to be resolved (if they can ever be), media coverage is apparently subsiding.

An exploratory examination of the biggest UK news media websites might indicate certain differences to the U.S. – here, news stories on the Afghanistan Conflict seem to remain on top of the news agenda. Especially news items on fallen soldiers are regularly published or broadcasted, respectively. Prime-Minister David Cameron is currently visiting the country, talking about plans for a withdrawal of British troops. Thus, it is not unlikely that the issue remains on the front pages – at least for a while.

In Germany, the war in Afghanistan remains a contentious issue, the intensity of its media coverage thereby varies. The ‘news-worthiness’  seems to depend on highly controversial incidents involving German troops and – very often emerging from such events – domestic discussions on the justification and actual purposes of the engagement. A recent example would be the infamous airstrike on two tanker trucksordered by a German general back in 2009, which led to various heated debates on the conflict.

A research project on media outlets from different NATO countries on the war might highlight some important as well as interesting differences in the depiction and perception of the conflict among the participating nations. The industrialized as well as digitalized nations of the Western hemisphere may share the infrastructure of interconnected information societies but significant differences still exist on the content level.

List of References

Journalism.org, http://www.journalism.org/numbers_report/Americas_longest_war_fights_for_attention 10/06/2010

Times Online, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7147223.ece 10/06/2010

Spiegel.de, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,648925,00.html 10/06/2010

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