Today’s Washington Post excerpt on Howard Kurtz’s new book detailing network TV anchors and the Iraq war has this telling section about NBC News’ decision to go with “civil war” in describing Iraq:
This stirred up quite a fuss — among White House correspondents, on talk radio, on the blogs — and MSNBC spent much of the day ginning up a debate over its use of the term.
It seemed a self-conscious attempt to replicate the moment in 1968 when Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and pronounced the war a stalemate. But that verdict from America’s most trusted man, in an era when a television anchor could hold that designation, was based on firsthand reporting, while NBC’s maneuver was simply a linguistic confirmation of what most Americans already believed to be the case.
[Brian] Williams felt that the news division should not have treated it as a major policy pronouncement. They often made changes to the network stylebook — and had long ago stopped using phrases like “homosexual lifestyle” and “pro-life” — without any fanfare. By trumpeting the move, Williams believed, they had made themselves the center of attention and invited the criticism that followed.
Seems like the terms used — “ginning up,” “self-conscious,” “fanfare,” “trumpeting,” and “center of attention” — should put to rest any doubts behind my former employer’s motivations for going with “civil war.”
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