Many Princeton students are concerned about bias in American media coverage of the war in Iraq. Several students said they trust the media to provide a largely accurate account but express general dissatisfaction with the range of opinions provided in newspapers and on television.
"The coverage is not openly biased," Paulo Quiros '06 said, "but it doesn't do a good job of showing opinions against the war."
Several students attending an informal USG discussion Thursday night on American media and the war, hosted by Camille Coates, Class of 2006 senator, said they were doubtful that there was a commitment to publishing the full spectrum of perspectives.
"The concern I express is that whenever a reporter says something negative about the war they'll get kicked out," Wamiq Chowdhury '06 said.
Few others said they think that reporting has been fair and unbiased.
"It seems to transcend politics a lot because of what's at stake," said USG Executive Secretary Shaun Callaghan '06 of the alleged bias in support of the war.
Students said they looked to many news sources for information about the war, but specifically mentioned The New York Times newspaper and online edition, as well as CNN and BBC as the most trusted sources.
The 24-hour television news broadcasts have irritated many students.
"After the first few days the war coverage got so monotonous. I prefer to go online whenever I feel like it," Chowdhury said.
No students complained of ignorance or indifference on the Princeton campus about the war.
"They are concerned with the war but day-today information is too taxing," Dan El-Padilla '06 said.
Marcos Gonzales '04 said because coverage of the war interferes, "with daily programming, even if you just want to watch basketball, you'll get some news."
Many students said they are turning to print media and the Internet over watching television.
"For some reason I tend to trust writing more," Gonzales said. "I've been using it to get a statistical base from which to form my opinions."
Gonzales said he turns to editorials more often than articles for "powerful opinions."
The decision to place reporters alongside American troops for the first time has provoked mixed responses.
"I think they have insightful observations into day-today military life but they don't help analysis of the war," Callaghan said.
"They create a sense that we see the horror of war, but it's so much worse. If the public saw that, they'd be much less pro-war," Quiros said.
Several students said they thought media coverage has changed since the beginning of war, noting less coverage of protests and less general debate among newscasters. "There's not much to debate unless you enjoy debating military strategy," Callaghan said. "My most liberal friend said his peace sign has turned into a V-sign for liberty. I think that sums up the situation."
Catch phrases and slogans in television and print coverage of the war evoked criticism.
In response to the New York Times section header "A Nation At War", Padilla said, "The implicit message is that this war is not just a brainchild of the Bush administration but that it's a war of all Americans."
"Families are getting ready to watch 'shock and awe' like they're getting ready for the Superbowl — it's like a staged event," Callaghan said.
Few students criticized the characterization of Islam and the Middle East.
"Partly in an attempt to be politically correct [networks] have shied away from making overgeneralizations on the nature of Islam," Padilla said. However, he added that "there's still an idea that Islamic fundamentalists make up a large part of the believers of Islam."
Students expressed more concern about the media's characterization of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people.
"We've dehumanized them and that's the worst possible thing," Quiros said.
"There's been more of an emphasis on Saddam as the embodiment of pure evil," Padilla said.
Students said Princeton publications have done a fair job of representing several sides of the war.
"Some of the articles have struck the right note of skepticism," Padilla said. "At the risk of sounding condescending, they're a bit naïve but they do cover the situation in a broad way."
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