Iraq War Logs : Case Study

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The end of the Cold war, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and then the dissolution of the USSR defined a new world order. This new world order saw the emergence of “new” wars that started with the first Gulf war and accelerated from the 9/11. As the global geopolitics was evolving, journalism was progressing with new technological devices and new ways of reporting (from 24h news channels to the advent of social media today). In this evolving context, there are some correlations between the new world, new media and new wars. Focusing on Iraq War Logs case, can data journalism affect war journalism ? How ? We will first have a brief look at war journalism, especially regarding Iraq war. Then, we will proceed in the content-analysis of Iraq war Logs, and discuss it.

LITERATURE REVIEW Some challenges are associated with war's newsworthiness. Media plays a central role since“ Modern wars cannot be fought without public support, and great efforts are made to get the public to accept, and preferably support their own side's actions in the conflict” (Nohrstedt, 2009). This leads, in the wars so-called against the terrorism, to situations where media seem to be embedded in a sort of propaganda. For example, the Gulf war's reporting of CNN as a “clinical war” hiding the “unworthy” Iraqis victims, or the construction of a discourse based on a US versus THEM dynamic since the 9/11 and the following war in Afghanistan. It also applies for the 2003 Iraq war since propaganda helped building and reporting the war. Through framing and agenda-setting, media spread some misperceptions encouraging American involvement. While the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction was exaggerated (Kull, Ramsay, Lewis 2002), the UN's weapons inspection teams were doubted (Melkote, 2009), once the war was launched, some of the journalists were part of the embedded program which affected their report. Editors of The New York Times confessed there were many journalistic flaws in the coverage of the war. Lack of criticism and reflexivity, mediated nationalism, spread of misinformation, omission of embarrassing situations and even the reporting language (good vs evil) are elements of war news as “a discourse em- bedded in propaganda” (Nohrstedt 2009). It applies even more with visual reporting material (Nohrstedt 2009).

ANALYSIS Wikileaks is a secretive site that publishes “leaks” from governments or high-profile organisations. These leaks can then, constitute a great source of datas which can be the base of journalistic use. Data journalism is the use of data in journalism to uncover, better explain and/or provide context to a news story. The sheer scale and range of digital information now available open up the possibilities. The flow of datas has to be filtered in order to bring some sense but it appears as a way to see things that would not have been seen otherwise and then to tell richer stories. It “presents information in a relevant way that enhance the tacit knowledge of humans about the subject matter”. We will proceed in the case study, through a content-analysis, of Iraq War Logs as an attempt to answer the research question. In 2010, Wikileaks disclosed around 400 000 US army Iraq field reports from 2004 to 2009. The biggest leak in the military history of the USA resulted in the open access to the reports through internet and in different projects, some notably lead by international media organizations (such as Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, NY Times) who enjoyed a pre-release access. The reports, in military acronyms, are composed of a title, some tables presenting the dry data, the body or text of the report, then a part made of raw data (just codes) and then a map centred on the exact location reported. Some names may have been removed for security issues. For example, “IED EXPLOSION RPT (Vehicle-Borne IED (VBIED)) 1-9 CAV : 299 CIV KIA 402 CIV WIA = an explosive hazard in the north of iraq (MDN-N)” indicates the Ninth...
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