The current chaos in Afghanistan may be dominating the headlines, but in 2020, the war reportedly received just a handful of minutes of network news coverage throughout the entire year.
According to analysis from the Tyndall Report via the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, the national evening newscasts on CBS, ABC, and NBC in 2020 devoted just five minutes to Afghanistan coverage. The coverage came in February 2020, when the Trump administration announced the Doha agreement with the Taliban to end the war.
"Five minutes!" Andrew Tyndall writes. "Such were the demands on the news agenda of the looming coronavirus pandemic in the early spring of 2020. Coverage of all other developments was eclipsed by COVID. The networks had long since given up covering the war as a war. The pandemic meant that they barely paid attention to the prospect of peace."
Tyndall's analysis also indicates, though, that between 2015 and 2019, there was only 58 minutes of annual Afghanistan coverage across ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. The numbers are notable, Tyndall told Responsible Statecraft, because "network news shows are the most mainstream of the mainstream media," so "they can be used as a proxy for the news judgment of mainstream media more generally." And Tyndall writes that since 2014, "the network nightly newscasts have not been on a war footing in their coverage of Afghanistan," as since then, they "have treated the role of the military there as an afterthought."