November 6, 2009
The First Casualty Of War
Study finds news reports match misperception of civilian deaths
Researchers reporting in BioMed Central's open access journal Conflict and Health found that the discrepancy in media reporting of casualty numbers in the Iraq conflict can potentially misinform the public and contribute to distorted perceptions and gross underestimates of the number of civilians killed in the armed conflict.
The results of their study showed U.S. newspapers reported more events and tallies related to Coalition deaths than Iraqi civilian deaths, although there were substantially different proportions amongst the different U.S. newspapers. In four of the five non-US newspapers, the pattern was reversed.
The authors of the study suggest that as newspapers reflect the interests of their readers, it is not surprising that U.S. newspapers describe more casualties related to Coalition deaths than Iraqi civilians, however they go on to question whether this is consistent with the goals and tenets of ethical and accurate journalism.
"We feel that this study casts an important light on the role of the media in covering armed conflict and communicating the human costs of war to the public" said Schuyler. "Our paper calls into question the role of the media in providing a tool for civilians to accurately gauge the true effects and outcomes of military action and ongoing warfare."
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