Friday, April 14, 2006

Journalists War Over 'Civil War'

Beyond the fight going on in Iraq, there's another going on about Iraq.

As casualties and collateral damage mount within that troubled nation, major U.S. media outlets are battling with whether to declare the situation a "civil war" or keep calling it slightly less ominously "sectarian violence."

This very newspaper is wrestling with the issue today on its front page. It's more than a matter of mere words. There are those who contend that calling it a civil war ensures it is one.

Throughout the news business the debate has simmered for months, heating to a boil after the February bombing of the golden dome of the 9th Century shrine in Samarra, an attack followed by waves of heightened violence.

"The bombing of the mosque, the golden dome, prompted all news organizations to ask that question, both in their stories and internally about how we approach it," Rome Hartman, executive producer of "The CBS Evening News," said Thursday. "It's something we've talked a lot about.

"We're not prepared to call it [a civil war] unilaterally," Hartman said. "It's a news judgment. . . . As long as it is a matter of dispute on a political level, both in Iraq and in the United States, then it's going to be difficult for us to say we've decided it is [a civil war]."



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