Washington (CNN) – One day after the end of the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, news from the once under-reported region continued to appear on the front pages of American newspapers and as lead stories on television, as the opposition candidate to the current Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced today he will not participate in a run-off presidential election. With stories this week ranging from whether President Obama will send 40,000 additional forces to Afghanistan, to reports that the C.I.A. is paying off Karzai's brother, the question begs: after eight years of this war, where has all the media coverage been?
Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz asked this question to a panel of top reporters who answered unanimously the media coverage has been in Iraq, not Afghanistan.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, associate editor for The Washington Post who just recently returned from Afghanistan, said the Afghan conflict simply doesn't have the number of reporters on the ground that Iraq did.
"I was in Baghdad in 2003, when U.S. forces arrived in that country, and there were probably upwards of, you know, newspaper reporters from 18 different American papers. Every single television network had a bureau there with multiple correspondents. Today, I mean, it's The New York Times and The Washington Post that have permanent bureaus there. CNN has a presence, but other American networks sort of rotate in and out. It [Afghanistan] is still a story that is getting much less coverage than Iraq was early on," Chandrasekaran said.
Barbara Starr, CNN's Pentagon correspondent who reported from Afghanistan in April of this year, said the struggling U.S. economy and financial hardships for newspapers are a contributing factor to the lack of international news coverage.
"I think for the big national news organizations, it's not the same problem it is for the local city newspapers, the regional newspapers, the local TV stations, who are really hit hard by the economy. And it's those hometown newspapers that are really the heart of covering this war in cities across America. Those hometown newspapers are disappearing," Starr said.
Terence Smith, a former media correspondent for PBS, said that the change in the amount of coverage of Afghanistan parallels the amount of attention the Bush and Obama administrations paid to the war.
"I think it reflects the administration as well. Afghanistan was the forgotten country. Attention was diverted to Iraq.
News media attention went with it. Now it's back, and rightly so. Now it's a living room war again just as Vietnam was, or a computer screen war, if you like," Smith said.
Starr said another parallel to the coverage of the Iraq war is complaints by senior officials about the lack of positive, uplifting stories in Afghanistan.
"It was astounding to me. This week, for the first time, I had a U.S. military official say to me, 'You people aren't reporting the good news about Afghanistan. Why don't you tell the good stories?'" Starr said. "I got it from a significant place, and it's everything you can do to say, I don't think General McChrystal, Admiral Mullen and General Petraeus would quite agree. These men are all saying publicly Afghanistan is in big trouble. That's the story right now."
Starr and Chandrasekaran agreed that covering Afghanistan has some geographical and logistical challenges that Iraq does not have.
"In Iraq, it was much easier for me to get in a helicopter and go out and see fighting in certain parts of the country,” Chandrasekaran said. “When you're out there embedded, it is so much more difficult in Afghanistan to actually go to different places in a short amount of time and see what's going on."
Smith said the increase in media attention could have an affect on the conflict itself.
"Does it build opposition to the war? Probably, it does," Smith said. " We do have two wars going on. But the attention in Afghanistan, utterly reasonable, given the increase in casualties, U.S. and NATO casualties there. Now, October being the bloodiest month of all. So it's completely to be expected, legitimate, and it's going to have an impact."