2003-04-03 / View From the Middle

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The MiddleSome Members Of Media Going Too Far In Editorializing
By Charles Rogers
View From The Middle By Charles Rogers Some Members Of Media Going Too Far In Editorializing

The Middle
Some Members Of Media Going Too Far In Editorializing

In 1991, during Operation Desert Storm (you re-member…the war that was to have done away with Saddam Hussein and his evil empire) the press was subjugated to such a degree as to have the American people feeling "in the dark" about everything. There were instances when our journalists were not allowed to send images to the public depicting just where SCUD missiles had landed and what destruction had been rained on either side of the conflict.

Journalists covering the war in Iraq, and their boss-es over here, understood at the time. Iraqi forces would have been eager to hear where and when one of their missiles struck. Strategists determined that, if they knew what they didn’t hit, they could re-set their sights and their missile-launchers would be re-directed.

Things have changed, of course. Now, the new technology tells us that everyone knows where a missile hits almost before it strikes even the smallest of targets. In the present war we have nearly 500 journalists "embedded" (that’s the new word for "traveling with") the troops. They’re all filing their reports daily, with every report now sounding very much the same as the last, unfortunately.

It was a good public relations move to allow the media access to all these troops; good for the folks at home, they thought, and a good way to pacify the networks and cable television outfits, especially after they were so constricted the last time around. How-ever, I’m saddened to see there certainly aren’t enough human interest stories, the ones about the personal lives of soldiers, sailors and marines; the Ernie Pyle-types where a guy from Oklahoma City or Cincin-nati is interviewed and the folks at home can see their "hometown hero" in all his glory. Ernie Pyle was a Scripps-Howard newspaper man who covered World War II from the trenches, right next to the G.I.s.

Frankly, it irks me to see so much editorializing from the scenes of battle, though. During this war, I didn’t expect to see much more than signs of a few skirmishes and, of course, the bomb blasts from Bagh-dad itself, but to hear some so-called reporters saying they think things aren’t going so well is beyond what they are supposed to do: report.

Mind you, I don’t for a minute deny that, even though they are there by the grace of the U.S. government (don’t bite the hand that feeds ya), they have a freedom to let us know what’s going on.

But then there’s the case for responsibility, or the lack of it. When one so-called correspondent appears on Iraqi television and talks about our losses — to an Iraqi audience — it is the ultimate in irresponsibility. When another so-called reporter babbles on —more to hear himself than to let the public know — and then draws our battle and troop-movement lines in the sand for everyone to see, it’s another case of blatant irresponsibility.

It’s okay for us to question the Establishment. That’s what the First Amendment is all about. But when it is on the battlefield — or off — and can put our troops in jeopardy, it must be off limits.

It seems the one fact the media over there haven’t let sink in: This is war. There are lives at stake. American lives.

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