Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Flooding the Zone

Let's start with a question. What's wrong with wall-to-wall Saddam coverage?

Nothing. And everything.

Newspapers have certainly printed a bountiful array of stories about the ex-Iraqi strongman. With the controversy about the war and the near-daily reports of violence from Iraq, Saddam's capture ranks.

I wonder if we miss something with this zone-flooding, though. As we devote pages and pages to Saddam, how much do we really say or explain? After a certain point, stories recycle the same facts. We only know so much. We can only speculate so far.

We overwhelm the pages (and possibly our readers) with one message: Capturing Saddam is important. You should know about it.

Thus, the context of the Saddam capture can be lost. We hop on the immediate event, but perhaps the media are less than excited about the long-term, research-heavy work that covering a complex world demands.

Those in the business can bemoan the fact that many in this country think Saddam launched the Sept. 11 attacks. But we should ask if news media contribute to such erroneous beliefs. We certainly covered Saddam's capture with fanfare to spare.

Newspapers should take care to educate their readers, not reinforce incorrect preconceptions.