Americans seek alternative outlets for war information

Americans are using the Internet as a way to get alternative news reports on the war in Iraq. Web sites covering war activity in Britain and Australia report spikes in visitors from the U.S. as war activity increases.

"Given how timid most U.S. news organizations have been in challenging the White House position on Iraq, I'm not surprised if Americans are turning to foreign news services for a perspective on the conflict that goes beyond freedom fries," Deborah Branscom, a Newsweek contributing editor, told Wired News.

Wired reported that the Guardian Unlimited news site, an umbrella site for Britain's Guardian and Observer newspapers, saw a recent 10 percent increase of visitors from the Americas. Nielsen/NetRatings reported that during the build-up to war earlier this year a quarter of the visitors to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Web site were from the Americas.

Criticism of reporting by American media outlets has also come from within its own ranks, Wired reported. Veteran CBS broadcaster Dan Rather recently complained to the BBC about the media's lack of access to government officials and the growth of "Milatainment" reality shows on U.S. TV, including ABC's "Profiles from the Front Line" and VH1's "Military Diaries."

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, "U.S. TV news seems to be reporting about a different planet than the one covered by foreign media."

An increasing number of Americans are using the Internet to look elsewhere.

Jon Dennis, Guardian Unlimited deputy news editor, told Wired that U.S. readers are visiting his site for the range of opinions it publishes, and to engage in vigorous debates. Media outlets in the U.S., he said, are not presenting the issues critically.

"As a journalist, I find it quite strange that there's not more criticism of the Bush administration in the American media," he said. "It's as though the whole U.S. is in shock (from Sept. 11). It's hard for (the media) to be dispassionate about it. It seems as though they're not thinking as clearly as they should be."

Unlike much of the American press, Dennis said the Guardian site presents both pro- and anti-war positions. In addition, the Guardian encourages its readers to debate the issues, through the site's talk boards and interactive features like live interviews with various experts.

The only debate in the U.S. media is on the Web, Dennis said. "Weblogs are doing all the work that the U.S. media did in the past," he said. "That's an interesting development."

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