COMMENT By Bob Weaver

A national survey released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows the Iraq war didn't make the top 15 stories covered by main-stream media in 2008.

Coverage of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been mostly bloodless coverage, TV news focusing on random bombing incidents.

The Bush administration banned coverage of video showing the return of the war dead in a conflict that has already cost US taxpayers $500 billion dollars, an amount that is predicted to reach one trillion.

The Iraq war has killed more than 4,200 Americans, injured tens of thousands, with at least 90,000 Iraqis dying, with some estimates several times that amount.

Most TV news companies are no longer keeping reporters in the country.

In 2007, Iraq made up about a fifth of the print, online and broadcast news content analyzed at Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

In 2008, war coverage, as poor as it was, dropped by 75 percent.

Number one was the U.S. economy, second gasoline prices, and third, the Wall Street bailout.

For the week of January 5, the war made up less than 1 percent of news content - behind stories like the death of John Travolta's son.

During the Vietnam War, journalists say if you had the stamina and the courage, you could go anywhere you wanted, with few limitations.

Military personnel went out of their way to take journalists to where the action was, and reporters could even "hitchhike by air" by flagging down pilots.

After Vietnam, the government blamed the media for losing that war and are now imposing huge restrictions.

Reporters say in Iraq that most of the interviews are monitored, with an officer standing by.

Soldiers could be easily court-martialed if they say the wrong thing.