COMMENTS: Use Your Imagination

All three networks had their Iraq-based correspondents report on the truck attacks on an abandoned school serving as a combat outpost in as-Sadiyah that killed nine paratroopers from the USArmy's 82nd Airborne Division. The correspondents, however, were confined to Baghdad so had to narrate the details. For visuals, all three networks depicted the attack using computer-generated graphics.

We have noted before (text link) how deceptive these graphics can be, offering an inflated appearance of verisimilitude. For example, when Iranian boats captured those British seamen in the Persian Gulf last month, the gunboats were much bigger and scarier in CBS' computer graphic simulation than they were in the actual videotape the Revolutionary Guard issued a few days later.

So with the truck attack in Diyala province: look at any three of the packages filed from Baghdad and the computer graphics purport to show what happened--but when we examine the three side by side we realize that the images owe more to the animator's imagination than to accurate journalism. In Stephanie Gosk's NBC News Animation, a pick-up preceded a truck, turning left through an opening in concrete blast walls, with both vehicles destroying the walls of the schoolhouse. In Mark Strassmann's CBS graphics, a pair of trucks, the first smaller than the second, turned right into the blast walls. The first truck exploded to create an opening in the walls while the second exploded outside the schoolhouse. ABC's Miguel Marquez showed a Virtual View in which a pair of large trucks headed straight for the school; the first had already passed through a gap in the blast wall before the second crashed into the wall behind it and exploded; the first truck exploded before it reached the building.

NBC's Bob Faw traveled to Fort Bragg, the 82nd Airborne's home base, where "support for the war has been unswerving." Faw found the troops-out sentiment grow "louder and angrier, even here." This was the division's single deadliest day since 1969. Meanwhile in the halls of the Capitol, a "ticked-off" Vice President Dick Cheney "did something he almost never does," according to CBS' Sharyl Attkisson--he talked to reporters. He blasted troops-out champion Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because it gives you political advantage."


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