Friday, April 1, 2011

 The imminent war against Iraq has become significant in a couple of respects, particularly for the media. Firstly it has turned out to be an opportunity for competing news organizations to show their prowess as advances in digital and communications technology have created a more level playing field for all media players, and secondly it would mark the emergence of the Internet as the principal disseminator of war stories around the globe, unlike the first Gulf War of 1991. What will make the online affair so significant is the watershed of information that is likely to go through the Internet at the time of the war, particularly in the form of ‘newsblogs’.
The first Gulf War has seen the rise of the satellite television, particularly as a medium of political propaganda with the ascent of the CNN and it took almost a decade for an alternate voice like Al-Jazeera to come up. CNN’s live coverage of the war had a tremendous impact on viewers around the world, who did not know that most of it was a stage-managed affair, shot in the CNN studios at Atlanta. It was totally a partisan version of the war that helped create a pro-American sentiment, and news stations the world over were compelled to replay the CNN clippings because there was no other alternative source available. Running a television network is enormously expensive business, but not so that of an internet portal. The internet has rendered news and its distribution more democratic, as anyone with access to the Net, can publish news.
News and commentary sites' known as Blogs, offer this possibility for every netizen. Blogs-short for Web logs-are selective collections of links to news items, often, accompanied by the compiler's commentary. Since a blog can be created by any­one with an Internet connection, read­ers should take some of the matter with more than a pinch of salt. But the fact remains that it helps in bringing forth diverse accounts and opinions. The average blogger's role is in filing 'sec­ond-day' stories than first-hand live information. Most blog creators have ideological leanings, and it is upto the user to discern them. One such blog is the widely-read
Thus the war on Iraq will be car­ried more on the Web than on televi­sion screens unlike in the 1991 war. The Internet as it is now known didn't exist in 1991; today, billions of homes and businesses have access to the web. The fact that the Internet can provide more detailed coverage than traditional media because it can carry complete documents, and video on demand, among other things, has firmly placed it on the top rung of the media ladder, above satellite television. The post-9/11 coverage was the real road test for this new media vehicle, and it helped to establish the Internet as a primary news medium.
 Today along with hundreds of news blogs, all the global media contenders are in the race for covering the impending battle. The greater integration of websites with their corresponding broadcast and print entities, has enabled them to be on a high war­-alert, with each happening hitting the website even as it happens. Leading newspapers, wire services such as As­sociated Press and Reuters, and ma­jor US broadcast networks such as Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, are to lead the coverage. A recent article in Online Journalism Review tells us about the preparations made by an MSNSC correspondent. He functions as a one-man band, delivering a vari­ety of video reports, live commentary and conventional text stories, with a videophone, which is a 264k satellite phone and a box which channels the lines together into a 128k connection that's enough to give a decent video signal. This is the way most of the pre­mium news sites go about their busi­ness. An array of such reports can be found at special pages of these sites,, and dedicated sec­tions of the CNN and the BBC. The Web is also replete with well-main­tained alternative voices like, Middle East Report (,, , and which offer excellent material and links to the Iraq crisis

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