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Conservative vs. Liberal Representation of Iraq in Newspapers

I chose to compare Newspaper stories, both national and local, from different states. I deliberately chose states that I knew would differ in political affiliation, in order to compare and contrast the differences between liberal and conservative states and their respective media. The conservative states that I chose were Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas and the liberal states that I chose were New York and California. I specifically looked at recent coverage of the war in Iraq and related issues in newspapers in each state, taking articles that had been published in the last three to four months. When looking at the recent stories I found many interesting differences between the liberal and conservative states. Each state seemed to have a different approach, or focus, of their stories about the war; however, these portrayals followed a noticeable pattern between the liberal and conservative states.

I. Chronicle: I read multiple articles from each individual state and synthesized many of the key messages; however, this is a list, and a brief synopsis, of the articles I focused on specifically:

Mississippi Sources:

Mohr, Holbrook. “Send off planned for largest contingent of Alaskans to deploy since WWII� The Associated Press: State & Local Wire 2006. October 1, 2006.
Article discussed a training camp in Hattiesburg, MS which had been training many Alaskan soldiers. The camp was designed to help these Alaskan soldiers become accustomed to the extreme heat they will face in Iraq.

Mohr, Holbrook. “Mississippi Guard Unit to deploy to Iraq� The Associated Press: State & Local Wire 2006. September 20, 2006.
Article discussed a send off ceremony being held in Jacksonville to “show appreciation for troops and the work they are doing.�

Alabama Sources:

Orndorff, Mary. “Session says voters frustrated with Republican states senators to lose committee posts after Democrats take control� Birmingham News. November 10, 2006.
Article discussed how many republicans in Alabama have blamed the lack of progress in Iraq as the reason they lost control of the Senate.

Gordon, Tom. “Iraq Invasion popular with many instate Bush’s popularity divided along race lines, survey finds� Birmingham News. September 11, 2006.
Article discussed a telephone survey that had been conducted surveying people’s support for Bush and the war. The survey results showed the lowest overall support percentage since the invasion of Iraq. The survey also showed a large discrepancy between upper-class white voters and middle to lower-class black voters, demonstrating an overwhelmingly higher approval rating for Bush among whites.

Opinions Section of Birmingham News:
Markham, Lisa. “Journalist should present facts, not disseminate rhetoric� Oct. 25, 2006.
Clearman, Ron. “It’s irresponsible to take credit for lack of recent terrorist attack� Oct. 23, 2006.
Heine, John. “Cowboy diplomacy won’t cut it; it’s time for Bush to start talking� Oct. 12, 2006

Texas Sources:
Kaplow, Larry. “Power shift in US leaves many Iraqis wary� The Austin American Statesman. Nov. 9 2006.
Article discussed how the recent shifts to liberal power in the House and Senate have left many Iraqi people very nervous about American troops withdrawing from Iraq. These Iraqi people believe that an American pullout will remove their protection from insurgent attacks.

Sanders, Bob Ray. “Soldiers can’t win war with guns only� Fort Worth Star- Telegram. November 12, 2006.
Article focused on rallying hometown support for the troops already in Iraq and those leaving soon. Information on how to give donations for supplies necessary and local drives that are taking place in Fort Worth.

“Veterans Day; In wartime, veterans deserve particular gratitude, and disabled vets need the best care nation can give� The Houston Chronicle. November 11, 2006. (Author not specified)
Article discussed medical research and support that many veterans need. The article talked about WWII vets as well as Iraq vets that need public help and support with medical procedures that are needed upon their return. Article outlines the gratitude that individuals should have for these vets and for what they have done for us as citizens.

New York Sources:
Polman, Dick. “White House holds firm to rightness� The Time Union. Albany, NY.
Article discussed how regardless of the shift to liberal power in the House and Senate the right will hold to its conservative roots and continue to damage the American system. Article outlines a 25% approval rating in New York for President Bush, as well as many people citing a change in Iraq as reasons for voting democratic.

Marshall, Carolyn. “Marine on Trial Tells of Killing Unarmed Iraqi� The New York Times. October 27, 2006.
Article discussed a marine on trial for killing an unarmed Iraqi citizen. The marine and seven others planned to capture and kill a man who they had deemed a “threat,� however they actually kidnapped and killed the wrong man. The marine also outlined an elaborate cover-up plan that was to be carried out in order to make it look like a necessary attack in response to the man’s dangerous and threatening actions.

California Source:
Baker, David R. “Bechtel pulling out after 3 rough years of rebuilding work� The San Francisco Chronicle. November 1, 2006.
Bechtel Corporation has decided to leave Iraq after their three year contract has recently terminated. The company, which was originally hired to rebuild power, sewage, and water plants in Iraq, is leaving after reporting 52 employee deaths. The President of the company also reported there being very little progress in the rebuilding process due to all the attacks.

II. Context:
Many of the conservative states tried to avoid criticism of the war and tended to focus on other aspects. Mississippi, for example, had many stories about hometown soldier deaths and send off ceremonies for troops that were soon to be deployed. Many of the newspaper Texan articles about Iraq focused on trying to rally support and pride for the troops or honor veterans for their “bravery� and “contribution.� There were more articles about veterans in the Texan database than any of the other states combined. There was a story that ran in The Austin American Statesman newspaper that described how many Iraqis were nervous about he switch of power in the American House and Senate, worrying that the American soldiers will leave taking away the civilian’s protection from insurgent attacks. Although this story may have some truth behind it, there weren’t any stories like this run in the liberal states showing an obvious difference in support. One piece of information I found really interesting was the lack of positive support in newspaper articles in Alabama. Many stories that appeared in Alabama expressed a much more critical view of the war and Bush’s plan of action. There were actually a lot of editorials written in The Birmingham Newspaper that expressed frustrations with the Bush administration, the rising death toll in Iraq, and safety of the US after 9/11. A survey report showed some of the lowest approval ratings of Bush and his administration handling of the war, as well as showing an enormous racial gap between approval opinions. There was a 57% approval rating among white voters, and only a 4% among black voters. I expected there to be racial differences but in such a consistently conservative state I was surprised to see such a large difference. This goes to show that the voting public is not always representative of the entire population as well as how Bush’s presidency have benefited some much more than others.

The liberal states had a very different approach to presenting the news than the conservative mediums. In both New York and California the current stories pertaining to Iraq were much more critical of the war and Bush himself. There were very few stories about soldiers lost or the efficiency of local training camps, but rather critiques of Donald Rumsfeld’s performance and the republican policies that have dug this country into a deep hole. Many stories focused on the recent elections and how the democratic take back of the House and Senate will provide the country with the much needed change in Iraq the American people have been looking for. The New York Times ran a story recently about a US marine that has recently testified to breaking the rules of engagement with an elaborate plan to kill a “dangerous� Iraqi man. He and seven other marines, however, captured and killed the wrong man. Stories of this nature, which depicts the more inhumane aspects of war, were not found in the conservative state’s newspapers. Both California and New York depicted the war as a detriment to the US and very little benefit to Iraq and its people. The San Francisco Chronicle talked about a California electrical company, Bechtel, which was hired to rebuild water, sewage, and power plants in Iraq in the aftermath of the war. The company is now leaving after three years, 52 employee deaths, and very little to show in regards to the rebuilding. These stories do not reflect pride among the American people but rather disappointment and desire for change.

III. Analysis and Discussion:
I used both local newspapers such as the Austin American Statesman and National newspapers like the New York Times. I found that the even though there were some variations between the national and local papers, the viewpoints on the war in Iraq were very consistent within each state; the liberal states showing a more critical representation and the conservatives showing a more supportive representation. Of course, there were stories in conservative states that criticized the war and the Bush administration and there were some stories in the liberal states that painted the war in a more positive light, these stories, however, were far and few and inconsistent with the general pattern. I chose these states in specific because I thought that they would show the biggest difference in current representation of the war, but it would be interesting to see how moderate states would compare to these more extreme conservative and liberal states. States like Minnesota, Ohio, and Virginia which have recently had a tendency to go either way in political affiliation.

I assumed that this research would show a difference in the liberal and conservative states representation of the war in Iraq and that assumption was confirmed. When the war first started there was constant media coverage but over time it had lost its appeal, and although it was never forgotten over the last three years, the recent elections helped bring it back into focus. It is interesting to see how the different states and political affiliations chose to represent information, for example Mississippi focused on deaths, Texas focused on honoring vets and New York on the less than satisfactory job Bush has done in regards to the war. I think this plays a role in why it is so difficult to get people to change their political affiliations. Liberal people tend to live in liberal states and therefore receive more liberal news, the same applies to conservatives. Of course, there seems to be many different factors that influence people’s political affiliations, such as family environment and even genetics, as we have recently been reading about in class, but after doing this research I understand why it’s so difficult to get people to change their views. Not only do people seem to be genetically predisposed to a position but they constantly receive news from biased sources. Although biologists might argue that genetics play more of a factor in political affiliation many social scientist may argue that it is possible that conservative states would have a different opinion of the war if they were presented with the media liberal states receive and vice versa.