Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Embedded War Reporting

Thanks everyone for your questions and insight on my presentation Thursday.

In Alan Hooper’s 1993 Book, The Military and the Media, S.F. Crozier was quoted in saying: “There can be few professions more ready to misunderstand each other than journalists and soldiers.”

In my class presentation I examined the relationship between embedded reporters and the military, as well as the perceived notion that embedded journalists are more prone to produce pro-American coverage as opposed to journalists who are not plugged into a military unit. I feel that the consensus from the class discussion was that war reporting is really important for the American audience; it’s just a matter of how that information is obtained and published, and whether it is trustworthy and follows the U.S. military’s Media Ground Rules.

The U.S. military was adamant that these rules were broken by Washington Times reporter Wayne M. Anderson, who was embedded with a Minnesota Air National Guard Unit at Camp Shaneen in Afghanistan this past summer. To recap, a complicated shooting occurred at the NATO facility at Shaneen between U.S. forces and allied Afghan-soldiers-in-training, with two killed and another four wounded. Anderson investigated the incident and ten days later published an account of the shooting in the Times, an article which was supplemented with a video of the wounded being transported to the hospital. The military contended that the video, which was removed from the Times website within 48 hours after it was posted, broke the Media Ground Rules contract in which Anderson signed. One of the major rules, in short, prohibits journalists from showing recognizable faces of soldiers wounded or killed in action. Anderson was expelled from the unit in Afghanistan for posting the video.

Judging from most of your feedback in class, I think the majority opinion is that Media Ground Rules exist to protect military interests, so if journalists want the great access that embedding contracts provide, they need to follow those rules. Here are a few questions to remember about this incident and the larger issue of embedded war reporting:

Would Anderson have been better off working independently, or is it unrealistic to believe he would’ve had an opportunity to catch this story without embedding?

After coming to terms with the U.S. military’s Media Ground Rules contract, was Anderson ethically right to shoot video and write his story?

Are the government’s Media Ground Rules and releasable and non-releasable contracts reasonable and fair to journalists?

Should Anderson have a constitutional right to appeal the military’s ruling?

I also posted a few links below that I hope are useful in thinking about this media issue (including the Washington Times article and a copy of the Media Ground Rules). Thanks for your time guys.




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