Good News Is No News

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on June 22, 2006

(by Rich Tucker, Townhall.com) – It can seem the news is always bad.

If a river isn’t flooding you’ll never see a journalist reporting live saying, “Things are fine here.” But let that river creep over its banks and you’ll suddenly have journalists with full rain gear to update viewers inch-by-inch.

But good news deserves to be news, too. Just last week, the U.S. military dropped two 500-pound bombs on a hideout in Iraq, killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In one strike we eliminated a top al Qaeda leader, a man the U.S. government considered so vile it had put a $25 million bounty on his head.

Yet before the ink was even dry on the Zarqawi death story, “realists” were throwing cold water on the military’s achievement.

“I’m glad we finally killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” reader Ilya Shlyakhter of Princeton, N.J. wrote to USA Today, “but before we celebrate, let’s remember that we ourselves created this monster. Who had heard of Zarqawi before we invaded Iraq?”

How about the family of American diplomat Laurence Foley? Zarqawi masterminded the attack on Foley, who was gunned down outside his home in Jordan, in October 2002. That’s five months before the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq.

Others insisted that Zarqawi would be easily replaced. Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg, a man Zarqawi murdered in cold blood, told CNN the terrorist’s death, “will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge.” Indeed, he insisted, “every time we kill anyone, we are creating a large number of people who are going to want vengeance.” That’s the same lazy thinking Steven Spielberg has his characters spout in his movie Munich — for every terrorist we kill, another five will step up to take his place.

But martyrdom isn’t a growth business. When a driver sees an accident on the highway he’ll slow down and drive carefully, not speed up and become reckless. And when potential terrorists see their colleagues killed, that must give them pause.

As national security expert James Robbins wrote in National Review Online, if Berg is correct, “our best move would be to never kill a leader, or else face an exponential terrorist explosion. But surely it does not take the death of someone like Zarqawi to swell the ranks of the bad guys — after all, a living leader can recruit an endless number of followers. Potential terrorists don’t wait to sign up only after someone dies.”

Maybe Zarqawi’s death was downplayed in the press because it interferes with the left’s preferred narrative, that Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. “I predict to you that two weeks from now, you’re going to be showing people being ripped off of buses and beheaded still,” Democratic Sen. Joe Biden told CNN on the day Zarqawi died.

Biden’s hardly going out on a limb with his prediction. Of course the media will smoothly switch gears from the good news about Zarqawi and the new Iraqi government and instead focus on negative stories out of Iraq. That’s because so many reporters seem to think — even hope — that Iraq is Vietnam all over again. They even think they have their My Lai massacre to make the correlation complete: The alleged murder of civilians in Haditha, where a dozen Marines may (or may not) have opened fire indiscriminately back in November.

Already, without a trial, Democratic congressman John Murtha is ready to convict the Marines. “There was no firefight, there was no IED [improvised explosive device] that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” Murtha told reporters on May 17.

Well, that settles that.

Or, maybe not. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, one of the accused, says his Marines followed the rules of engagement. His attorney says Wuterich is “really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians.” In any event, a full military investigation is underway. We ought to wait for the results before we declare that anyone did anything wrong.

Back in World War II, reporters rode along with our soldiers and frequently wrote in the first person. “[The mountains] are easy to defend and bitter to take. But we are taking them,” Ernie Pyle wrote from Tunisia in 1943. It may be too much to ask for today’s journalists, who see themselves as citizens of the world, to align themselves with our troops and call themselves “we.”

But those of us on the home front deserve to hear the good news, too — not just stories about IED blasts, but the success stories as well. Good news needs to become newsworthy again.

Rich Tucker is an editor in Washington D.C. and a columnist for Townhall.com.

Copyright ©2006 Townhall.com.  Reprinted with permission from Townhall and Rich Tucker.  Posted at Townhall.com on June 16, 2006.  Visit the website at Townhall.com.

Questions

1.  What is at issue in Rich Tucker’s commentary?

2.  How does Mr. Tucker respond to the following negative reactions to Zarqawi’s death?

  • a USA Today reader’s claim that “we ourselves created this monster” (para.5)
  • people who say Zarqawi could easily be replaced (para. 7)
  • Michael Berg’s claim that “every time we kill anyone, we are creating a large number of people who are going to want vengeance” (para. 7)

3.  For what reason does Mr. Tucker think the media downplayed the good news of Zarqawi’s death?

4.  What are Marines accused of doing in Haditha?  How did Democrat Senator John Murtha react to the accusation?  How does Mr. Tucker’s reaction differ?  With whom do you agree?  Why?

5.  Re-read the last two paragraphs of the article.  Compare Ernie Pyle’s war reporting with that of today’s media.  Do you agree with Mr. Tucker’s last statement that “good news needs to become newsworthy again”?  If so, consider writing to the news organization from which you get your news:
–Contact Information can be found at Congress.org.  Congress.org is not a U.S. government website.  It provides websites and email addresses for government officials and media representatives.  
–Go to Congress.org to send an email to the editor of your local newspaper, expressing your opinion on the responsibility they have to publish good news stories from Iraq and Afghanistan. (For further information about Congress.org, click here.)

For an article on Ernie Pyle, click here.

To read about Heroes of America’s War on Terror, news that has generally not been reported, click here.

*SUMMER READING SUGGESTION:  For a book that is a compilation of Ernie Pyle’s reports on World War II, read “Here Is Your War” by Ernie Pyle.