Caitlin, the case is that Assad, like Gadaffi in Libya, had the support of over half his people even at the height of the conflict. Some supported these two dictators because they ran secular regimes and bought popularity by providing generous social belefits from oil revenues, others supported them because whatever we in the west may think of the way they ruled, it was obvious the alternative would be a lot worse. Better the bastard you know than the devil you don’t?
One western reporter who did try to keep accurate reports flowing from Syria throughout was Eva Bartlett, a Canadian freelance I believe. Here’s a write up on her.