Live coverage of air strikes on Baghdad, unforgettable images of Iraqi citizens fighting for aid supplied in trucks and the sight of American troops moving through the deserts of southern Iraq light up TV screens across the world every night.
The effects of such media saturation of the war in Iraq may be unknown for some time, said Ernest Chavez, professor and chair of the psychology department at CSU.
“The fact is, on one level, since it is the first time (such coverage of the war has been available) we just don’t know what the effects will be,” Chavez said.
Some effects are easy to determine, such as increased anxiety in people who watch the war coverage, but other extreme problems could develop as well, Chavez said.
“There are two different problems that could happen (because of media saturation of the war) to people. First, obsession with the war and with always needing to know what is happening,” Chavez said. “Just like any other obsession in life, obsession with the war can begin to interfere with your life.”
The second problem that could develop is viewers beginning to see the live war coverage as a new form of entertainment.
“People who watch (the war coverage) and who start to view it as a new form of reality TV,” Chavez said. “This can be bad (if viewed in this way) because it makes the whole of awfulness of this (war) not so awful.”
Kevin Ketterhagen, a senior restaurant and resort management major, likes the fact that the war is getting the news coverage that it is.
“I like the fact that the coverage is available,” Ketterhagen said. “I think that because it is live though, it makes people think that we’re not moving fast enough in the war’s progress. I don’t think that is helping us any.”
TV ratings of the war coverage were very high through the first week of the war, Chavez said, but after the first week people began to move away from the coverage.
“Some people are withdrawing from (the war coverage). Parents are switching to programs where they know there is going to be no coverage of the war,” Chavez said.
Greg Boiarsky, a media effects professor in the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication, agrees that people are pulling away from war coverage viewing, but says the effects of the coverage can vary from person to person.
“The war is being framed (by the media) in a way that is more scary for adults (than for children),” Boiarsky said.
The effects of the coverage so far for little children are not that severe, Boiarsky said.
“Kids don’t see the world through the perspective of other people, they can’t distinguish the difference between fantasy and news,” Boiarsky said.
Younger children see the news coverage of the war and think the explosions are like fireworks, he said.
“Unless kids see the blood and gore, they don’t understand what is really happening when those bombs land on TV,” Boiarsky said.
However, Boiarsky said he believes that “when the parents get upset about what they see on TV, the kids will equate that with something bad.”
He said that within the next year there would be many studies completed on the media effects of war coverage saturation on TV.