Eye of the beholder

Eye of the beholder
: Reporters are just witnesses with pencils. And their accounts of what they witness will, of course, vary widely. USA Today’s Peter Johnson certainly proves that, interviewing a bunch of reporters about their view of progress in Iraq. They’re all over the map. Here’s one of the more balanced takes:

Although some paint a picture of recovery, with U.S. armed forces making progress in getting the country going again, others sketch a bleaker scene, in which bombings, ambushes and looting are the rule, not the exception.

Reporters agree on this much: Bad news — not good — sells.

”It’s the nature of the business,” Time’s Brian Bennett says. ”What gets in the headlines is the American soldier getting shot, not the American soldiers rebuilding a school or digging a well.”

The Baghdad that Bennett sees is a city where gunfire erupts every night and dozens of Iraqis are reported dead in the morning. Looting and robberies are common. ”There is a mounting terrorist threat, and the people who want to kill American soldiers are getting more organized,” he says.

But he also sees a city where restaurants are reopening daily, where women feel increasingly safe going out to shop, where more police means intersections aren’t as clogged as they were this summer. ”My neighbors are nice,” he says. ”My street is a pretty quiet place.”

When Bennett visited the USA a few weeks ago, he realized that, five months after the U.S. invasion, the Iraq he lives in doesn’t mesh with the bleak picture that friends here are getting from the media.

”I’m not saying all is hunky-dory,” Bennett says. ”But in the States, people have a misperception of what’s going on.”

Which is why Bennett plans to pitch a story about the improving scene in Iraq, where electricity is being restored daily and people are getting back to work. ”There’s been a lot of improvement that I and my colleagues noticed when we came back here. People in the States just don’t see it.”

Let’s keep an eye on Time and see whether his pitch is successful. [via Romenesko]

: See also Postrel and Reynolds on this.