It began with a headline splashed atop the story on the front page of the February 18 Washington Post: “Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army’s Top Medical Facility.”
In a powerful two-day series last week, the Post’s Dana Priest and Anne Hull reported that Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., the venerable hospital famed for treating U.S. presidents, had turned into a “messy bureaucratic battlefield” for hundreds of outpatient troops wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses” was the wrenching description in the opening paragraph.Just five days later, after taking a tour of Walter Reed, Defense Secretary Robert Gates left no doubt that the Post’s work had an impact. “Those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held responsible,” the secretary said.
At a time when supporting the troops is the only common ground in the polarizing debate over Iraq, the Post investigation reverberated through the White House, Pentagon, and media. Picked up by everyone from cable hosts to network anchors, the story of the war on the homefront—dominated by the Walter Reed story—received its highest level of coverage of the year the week of February 18-23, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index.
The fifth biggest story of the week, (filling 5% of the overall newshole) the Iraq homefront generated the most attention on the broadcast network news, where it made up fully 10% of the airtime, much of it crediting the Post.
Read the full article and view charts on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.