The current issue of the American Journalism Review confirmed it is not just our imagination that the war is no longer leading on television news or on page 1 of daily newspapers. During the first 10 weeks of 2007, Iraq stories were 23 percent of the news on network TV stations; during the same period in 2008, it was 3 percent. On cable stations, it fell from 24 percent to 1 percent. Associated Press tracked 65 newspapers and found similar changes.
The story that kept us riveted to our televisions in 2003 as we invaded Iraq has been relegated to the inside pages of newspapers if it is reported at all. Perhaps, in part, because suicide bombings and sectarian violence continue month after month and are no longer new so, by definition, are not news.
War fatigue - in readers as well as journalists - may be another factor. In March 2008, only 28 percent of Americans knew that 4,000 military personnel had lost their lives in the conflict, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. Eight months before that, 54 percent of Americans knew the number of casualties. This fatality rate creeps up steadily; but without a draft, it does not affect so many people personally.
The economy has become the lead news story replacing the war, although it is costing $12.5 billion per month. The presidential race has been the other big item this year. As the election draws near, the Iraq War may again grab the headlines as the candidates debate the best way to handle the situation.
The war may be old news to a lot of people but for the troops and their families it remains of intense interest. Let's keep the troops in our hearts and in our prayers.