Afghanistan – Missing in (News) Action

For months— years— legions of reporters in and around Afghanistan have recounted every move, medical miracle and human interest heart-warmer they could find.

So where are they now?

In part, the two-plus month oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has helped push news from Afghanistan out of the picture. British Petroleum has established a new Ground Zero. Seeming corporate and government inaction in this massive disaster coupled with a cast of plucky Katrina survivors make for stories Americans want to see.

While reporting from Plaquemines Parish, La., or Pensacola Beach, Fla., is less expensive and risky than following at story in unstable Afghanistan, even news from the home front seems to have faded to gray. Stories meant to inspire – those who overcome unspeakable loss—are infrequent.

Save for a rare Richard Engel story on NBC or an even rarer Tom Bowman piece on NPR, defense is no longer the It Girl. Her comeback may hinge on to what now seems a mythic Battle for Kandahar. (We could write the screenplay without the military offensive.)

Maybe the news outlets are hanging back during the massing of warfighters. The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal,  says conditions are not quite ready and has pushed back the operation.

A ruse? The reported problems with local tribal leaders are significant – and a treasure trove of political-military stories.

Our informal poll of the nation’s top five papers (online edition) Saturday, June 19 found:

Circling back to our initial hypothesis: With BP, who needs DoD?

Breaking news and bucking the trend: Rolling Stone magazine has profiled Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and he’s already apologizing. Check newsstands Friday.

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