COMMENTS: Verbal Imprecision

ABC and CBS both followed up on the trio of soldiers captured near Yusufiyah in Iraq. CBS anchor Katie Couric, introducing Sharyn Alfonsi's report, persisted with her poor choice of words when she told us that "the search continues for three American soldiers who were kidnapped by terrorists Saturday south of Baghdad when their convoy was ambushed by insurgents." First, Couric gave the confusing impression that the attack and the capture were done by two distinct groups; second, in Mark Strassmann's computer graphic representation of the attack on CBS yesterday, the ambushed HumVees were parked on lookout not in a convoy; third, to reiterate, soldiers taken prisoners are not "kidnapped" and attacks on military targets are not "terrorist." The Pentagon announced that the ambushed unit was part of the Tenth Mountain Division based at Fort Drum. CBS' Alfonsi traveled to upstate New York where she found the base "collectively holding its breath" while ABC's David Muir (subscription required) called its wait for news "agonizing."

NBC's coverage of Iraq consisted only of a portion of Brian Williams' interview with Tony Blair in which he characterized the Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan as being at one with the insurgency in Iraq, "part of a broader global struggle and if we back away, if we give up on it, if we show any signs of retreat at all, then the enemy that we face worldwide will be strengthened." Blair contradicted the formulation NBC uses to describe the violence in Iraq: "It is not really in a civil war." Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs and Kurds "basically want to live together," Blair asserted.


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