People across the country have, of late, been sucked into America’s latest television programming. This programming is more addictive than any soap opera, more true-to-life than any “reality T.V.” show and with more reruns than any sitcom. This flashy, new, intense T.V. show that everyone just “has to watch” is the 24-hour war coverage that is flooding networks, and bombarding every aspect of daily life. Although this programming was originally designed to inform and educate America’s public, it has become an addictive medium causing the desensitization of the American public and a lack of responsible journalism. Since the beginning of the war coverage in Iraq, the American public has seen the events that occur in a wartime situation as a normal day to day television show. The conflict, known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” has had more media coverage than any other war situation in history. Modern Technology has allowed instant access to the war, something that was never seen before the Gulf War. “I don’t think we’ve ever had instant access to front lines from so many sources as we have now,” said Dick Haws, associate professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.
Many members of the American public see this change as an exciting new forum in which information, and first hand war accounts can be shared with up to the minute additions. However, this new style of war coverage has brought about an adverse effect on the American public, making them desensitized to the harsh images of war. Americans can now watch front line combat from their own living rooms, in as much detail as they would watch explicit war movies such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Pearl Harbor.” The only difference between Hollywood’s war movies and the war coverage is that movies end after two hours, allowing you to leave the movie theater able to watch or think about whatever you want, while the war coverage is a constant intrusion on daily life playing 24 hours on the television sets and in the minds of Americans. This is causing Americans to view the war coverage as a form of entertainment, giving them a huge thrill and adrenaline rush as they watch the gore and terror of war, rather than leaving them disgusted and appalled at the sight.
Dr. Derek Hopko with the University of Tennessee’s Psychology Department said, “It is an ongoing, almost surreal movie, if you will. The coverage is so extensive and detailed, it almost appears like a motion picture.” Americans are currently seeing the horror and destruction of war, in great amounts and substances. Images, such as the picture on the front page of the March 27 publication of The New York Times showing images of dead Iraqi and American soldiers sprawled across the desert, are plastered over newspapers and networks throughout the country.
An additional downfall to the rise in 24-hour war coverage is the lack of responsible journalism. Due to the need for round-the-clock stories and reports, journalists have little time to do the necessary preparations of checking sources, interviewing from different perspectives on issues, and examining the validity of information. The lack of time to verify stories leads to incorrect information being sent out to Americans, causing individuals to hear, speculate and comment to others about what they “heard on the news today” resulting in conflicting stories and mass confusion.