TO BE OR NOT TO BE: THE ROLES OF THE UNILATERAL AND EMBEDDED REPORTER DURING WARTIME
- Published: Sunday, 21 February 2010 19:24
Wartime correspondents are a valid and critical aspect to obtaining the overall picture of war and military conflicts. This paper examined the roles of embedded and unilateral reporters during wartime and answers the two questions; how do the media see the role of unilateral and embedded reporters during wartime and how does the military view the roles of unilateral and embedded reporters during wartime? This qualitative analysis used in-depth interviewing to gain a perspective of the perceived benefits and disadvantages of embedded and unilateral reporting. This analysis included viewpoints from the general military officer population, public affairs officers, embedded reporters, and unilateral reporters. Moreover, this paper explored why both types of reporting are required in order for the public to obtain a complete perspective toward the military conflict. This research shows how unilateral and embedded reporting complement each other on the battlefield; and therefore, should be viewed as a part of the overall media package and makes recommendations to improve the military’s relationship with the media to include embedded and unilateral reporters.
I would like to thank the members of my thesis committee, Dr. Barbara Barnett, Mr. Allan Boyce, and Mr. Robert Salvatorelli, as well as other Command and General Staff College Faculty Members, Mr. Paul Van Gordon, COL William Raymond, and Dr. Constance Lowe for their support, encouragement, and steadfast patience throughout my thesis development. Their helpful feedback and recommendations are directly reflected in the final product. I especially want to thank Dr. Matthew George, who recommended the topic of this paper to me, the several reporters, public affairs officers, and other military officers, who patiently shared with me their thoughts, experiences, and recommendations that made this product a reality. I truly appreciate the administrative and formatting support from Ms. Venita Krueger, who essentially made a very painful process easy and relatively stress free. And finally, many thanks to my roommate, my fellow MMAS comrades, and the many friends who encouraged and motivated me throughout my writing process.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page
MASTER OF MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE THESIS APPROVAL PAGE iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS iii
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 3
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 3
The Doctrine of the Public Affairs 3
What is News? 3
The Influence of the Media 3
Impact of Technology on Military Media Relations 3
The Pattern of Censorship 3
History of the Military Correspondent 3
Criticism of Embedded Media 3
Current Media Credentialing Process in Iraq 3
CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY 3
In-depth Interviewing 3
Snowball Sampling 3
Interview Process 3
CHAPTER 4 ANALYSIS 3
Military Officer Information Analysis 3
Public Affairs Officers Information Analysis 3
The Reporters 3
The Embedded 3
The Unilateral 3
The Reporters View of the Public Affairs Officer 3
Recommendations Provided by the Military and the Media 3
Broad Military-Media Relationship 3
CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS 3
Recommendation 1 3
Recommendation 2 3
Recommendation 3 3
Recommendation 4 3
Recommendation 5 3
Recommendation 6 3
Recommendation 7 3
Recommendation 8 3
Final Thoughts 3
APPENDIX A QUESTION WRAP UP 3
Books and Articles 3
INITIAL DISTRIBUTION LIST 3
AF Air Force
AOR Area of Responsibility
BIAP Baghdad International Airport
BG Brigadier General
CBS Columbia Broadcasting Station
CENTCOM Central Command
CMOC Civil Military Operations Center
CNN Cable News Network
COB Contingency Operations Base
CPI Committee of Public Information
CPIC Combined Press Information Center
CSI Combat Studies Institute
D-Day Disembarkation Day (June 6, 1944)
DoD Department of Defense
EO Executive Order
FM Field Manual
FOB Forward Operating Base
ID Infantry Division
ITO International Travel Order
JP Joint Publications
LTC Lieutenant Colonel
MND-North Multi-National Forces- Iraq North
MNF-I Multi-National Forces- Iraq
OPTEMPO Operation Tempo
OWI Office of War Information
PACOM Pacific Command
PAO Public Affairs Officer
SOPAC Southern Pacific Command
U.S. United States
USARPAC United States Army- Pacific
WWI World War I
WWII World War II
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.
― Thomas Jefferson
Nothing could be more irrational than to give the people power and to withhold from them information, without which power is abused. A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a force or a tragedy or both.
― James Madison
But out of the gobbledygook, comes a very clear thing: [unclear] you can’t trust the government; you can’t believe what they say; and you can’t rely on their judgment; and the–the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the President wants to do even though it’s wrong, and the President can be wrong.
― H.R. Haldeman to President Nixon,
Monday, 14 June 1971, 3:09 p.m. meeting.
In the United States, the media-military relationship is tenuous at its worst and cooperative at its best. Experts can supply numerous reasons for this on-again, off again relationship; however, the main reason why this exists is the very nature of the United States Constitution. The First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of speech and press that established an open environment and allowed the press to question and hold accountable those serving in public office of positions; especially, those making decisions at all levels and in all branches and organizations of the government including those serving in the military. The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Therefore, under the auspices of the First Amendment, there is little prior restraint as to what the press cannot print; however, items such as those that may endanger national security, are considered obscene, that incite violence or the violent overthrow of the government, and illegally gained information are the categories where just cause for prior restraint on the media exists (Zelezny 2006). Throughout history, the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled prior restraint can be used in limited circumstances such as national security. However, the precedents developed by the prior restraint cases created a high burden of proof requirement for the government. The government must prove bed doubt that a story’s publication will damage national security.
A case in which the United States sought prior restraint of a story was The New York Times CO vs. the United States. This case, also known as the Pentagon Papers, was a landmark case that changed the government-press relationship and strengthened the media’s legal status (Baroody 1998). The government failed to prove that the story written from an internally leaked classified document on the early military operations in Vietnam endangered national security. The Supreme Court ruled, by a 6-3 vote, that the United States Government did not have the authority to exercise prior restraint on The New York Times and later The Washington Post. Essentially, the Court ruled that the story was a matter of embarrassment to the government rather than an issue that would irrevocably harm national security.
A story written by Howard Moreland, an anti-nuclear activist, is the only known case where prior restraint was authorized. This 1979 article, titled, “The H-Bomb Secret: To Know How is to Ask Why,” gathered information from unclassified sources and combined it into an article that communicated instructions on how to make an H-Bomb. The government was granted an initial injunction after arguing convincingly that if the information was published it would be a threat to national security because the data contained in the article was not common knowledge. This injunction prevented the author from publishing the article. In the end, the case was dropped by the government when another speculative journalist published a similar article (Zelezny 2006).
The First Amendment is the cornerstone of all media organizations in the United States and possibly the root cause of the existing dichotomy of interests in media-military relations. In the military-media relationship dichotomy, the media’s purpose is to question and seek out information in order to fulfill its obligations to the public while earning a profit and obtaining ratings for the media organization. On the other hand, the military is cautious to share information so that it may preserve informational and operational security, force protection, and tactical superiority (Paul and Kim 2004, xiv). The following quote by general and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower sums up the military-media dichotomy. He stated, “The first essential in military operations is that no information of value shall be given to the enemy. The first essential in newspaper work and broadcasting is wide-open publicity. It is your job and mine to try to reconcile those sometimes diverse considerations” (Paul and Kim 2004, 1). Moreover, Judith Baroody, in the book Media Access and the Military stated that “there is a historical tension between the media and the military in the United States, a natural outgrowth of what has evolved into a checks-and-balances system within the democratic state compelling the two actors to interact with antagonists” (1998, 3). As a result of this dichotomy created by the very nature of the First Amendment, the media’s professional obligation and the military’s necessity to preserve its force, the media and the military have a historically on-again, off-again, distrustful and unfriendly or a friendly and cooperative relationship with each other.
The media and the military have some interests in common and some areas of difference. For example, both institutions seek to serve the public’s interest, have developed sets of norms, values, and goals that guide and pattern their professional behavior (Baroody 1998). Retired Marine Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, a military analyst for The New York Times and the American Broadcasting Company stated, “Oddly enough, I have found striking similarities between my colleagues in both camps. Both are idealistic, bright, totally dedicated to their professions, and technically proficient. They work long hours willingly under arduous conditions” (Smith 1992, xvvii). Trainor also showcased the differences between the professions. He stated that “a journalist tends to be creative, while a soldier is content with traditional approaches. Reporters are independent, while military men are team players. And of course one tends to be liberal and skeptical, the other conservative and accepting” (as cited in Smith 1992, xvii). Trainor also indicated the military tends to be hostile toward the journalist while the journalist is indifferent to the military because the military is viewed as just another huge government bureaucracy to report on and is seen with the same perspective as Exxon or Congress. Whereas, the businessman and Congress seek to enlist media for their own purposes; the military tries to avoid the media and views them skeptically and defensively with a mixture of fear, dread, and contempt (Smith 1992).
Due to the different missions of the media and the military, the relationship can be strained, especially during war-time when the media seek to view the conflict from various perspectives in their endeavor to uncover information that affects the citizenry of the nations involved instead of only viewing the conflict through the eyes of military or an individual government. Therefore, many news organizations sent unilateral and embedded reporters to the battlefield as has been the case for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. government informs its citizens of its actions and decisions within the constraints of ensuring national security while the military, due to force protection and operational security, is less open with the media at certain times of a military conflict. Therefore, the military-media relationship is exacerbated during war time. Furthermore, the relationship is strained by battlefield events that involve unilateral reporters; such as, an American tank firing upon the Palestine hotel, a well-known and documented unilateral media headquarters in Baghdad. This attack killed two media personnel residing in and working from the hotel and increased tensions between the U.S forces and the unilateral reporters, many of whom believed the attack to be deliberate rather than a response to enemy fire that supposedly came from a hotel window.
In the media’s eyes, the Palestine hotel had been painted all over the various media in the months preceding the invasion and throughout the invasion. Their perspective of the Army’s justification for the incident was, that there was no way the military could not have known the hotel was the press headquarters in Iraq, the hotels’ location in Baghdad and how the hotel looked because it was broadcast over numerous picture media prior to and during the military invasion of Iraq. Therefore, this mindset further ensconced in the media’s psyche that the U.S. Government and the military deliberately down played the event resulting in the perception of a cover up. Therefore:
The roots of tension lie beyond specific historical experience. By now, it is commonplace observation that there is an inevitable clash of cultures between the disciplined, hierarchical military, responding to the call of duty, patriotism, and team instincts and the free-wheeling, individualistic press, instinctively mistrustful of officialdom and authority, and motivated to break news and make headlines. (Smith 1992, xvii)
The gulf between reporters and the government appears to have become a permanent legacy in Washington (Smith 1992, xvi). Therefore, both groups often view each other through the eyes of legacy stereotypes which impact the openness that both groups develop toward each other. As a result of these stereotypes, the tension, and permanent gulf, the military’s natural reflex is to corral or handcuff the press (Smith 1992, xviii). Also, this same predisposition can be seen in stereotypes held by the media toward the military and the government, one which suggests the military and government seek to cover up and withhold information as was evidenced after the Palestine hotel incident.
Although wartime media relations have been extensively researched in the past by various authors, journalists, and experts, recent studies, such as the RAND study, focus on various aspects of embedded media and have left out the reporting of unilateral wartime correspondents, a valid and critical aspect to obtaining the overall picture of war and military conflicts. Therefore, this paper will examine the roles of embedded and unilateral reporters during wartime and answer the questions concerning how the media envision the roles of unilateral and embedded reporter during wartime, as well as, how the military view the roles of unilateral and embedded reporters during wartime.
Additionally this paper will explore the perceived benefits and disadvantages of embedded and unilateral reporting from various points of view which include the general military, the public affairs officer, the embedded reporter, and the unilateral reporter and will identify why both types of reporting are required if the public is to gain a complete perspective on the military conflict. Furthermore, this research will illustrate how embedded reporting is part of the whole media reporting process that complements unilateral reporting rather than the only style and technique of reporting from the battlefield during combat operations. Finally, it concludes with identifying why the military must establish enduring working relationships with and tolerance for unilateral reporters on the battlefield. Building relationships not only with organizations that are willing to send embedded reporters, but also with organizations that prefer to keep their reporters independent from the military, will allow the military to develop an all encompassing program that allows all journalists, embedded or unilateral to meet their professional goals and responsibilities to the public.
Chapter 1 of this paper provided an introduction and a background of the traditional media-military relationship. Chapter 2 provided an extensive review of military media doctrine, what the media considers as news, the use of propaganda, the influence of the media, the impact of technology on the military-media relationship, the historical pattern of wartime censorship, and extensive historical chronology of wartime reporting and wartime correspondents, criticisms of embedded media and the current accreditation and credentialing process. Chapter 3 introduced the communication method that will be used to evaluate the data. Chapter 4 applied the method and chapter 5 concluded the paper and provided recommendations.
Without trust, communication becomes difficult, if not impossible
― Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson
War is among the most horrific of activities pursued by mankind. Under a cloak of military splendor and the prospect of glory, war is cruel, bloody and destructive. Its reporting however makes brilliant news: it offers excitement, anxiety and horror and sometimes exultation or despair.
― Miles Hudson and John Stanier
The military-media relationship is enormously dynamic and constantly evolving; therefore, it is important to explore various historical aspects of wartime reporting and their impact on the military/media relationship in order to fully understand the various perspectives held by both the military and media personnel toward the roles of the unilateral and independent reporters on the battlefield. It is imperative to understand current military doctrine, the media’s perspective on newsworthy stories, propaganda during wartime, the media’s influence on public opinion, and the impact of technology on the media’s relationship with the military. Likewise it is equally imperative to understand the historical pattern of censorship, the history of the war correspondent, the criticism of embedded media, and the current reporter accreditation and credentialing process because the equally impact the military media relationship in the current conflicts. This chapter explored these topics in order to provide the reader with the necessary information to understanding the various perspective indentified in chapter four.
During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, embedded media were hailed as a revolutionary new concept by the military that positively influenced the military-media relationship. A 2004 Rand Corporation study written by Christopher Paul and James Kim, stated that the “embedded system appears to be the best solution to date at balancing the needs of the three core constituencies, the press, the military, and the public. In addition, this study categorized the concept as a “broad innovative measure for wartime coverage” (Paul and Kim 2004, xiii). However, the labeled “new” concept of embedding reporters with the military is in fact not a “new” concept but one that has historical roots and has been used in previous wars; historical “embedded” examples include Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent, Ernie Pyle who accompanied troops during World War II (WWII) in both the European and Pacific theaters of war and broadcast journalism pioneer, Edward Murrow, CBS correspondent to London.
Not only are there examples in history of embedded reporters the military’s own doctrine addresses the concept of embedded reporters. The Department of the Army’s, Field Manual (FM) 46-1, Public Affairs Operations, written prior to the issue date of 1997 provided guidance on the use of embedded media. This guidance illustrated that the embedded concept was not a new concept created to sell the invasion of Iraq to the American public. This manual encouraged public affairs officers, (PAOs) to “seek out those members of the media who are willing to spend extended periods of time with soldiers during an operation, embedding them in the unit they will cover” (DOD, 25). The reporter eats, sleeps, and moves with the unit and is authorized free access to all sections of the unit and is not escorted by public affairs personnel (DOD, 25). Additionally, the public affairs manual identified that the military ensured operational security by establishing media ground rules that identified what can or cannot be covered or when the material can be reported. Kenneth Payne, author of the article, The Media as an Instrument of War, emphasized the benefit to commanders that control the media. He stated, “Today’s military commanders stand to gain more than ever before from controlling the media and shaping their output” (2005, 81) and embedded media is viewed by the media as a way to control the media.
Current literature provides the military’s initial perception and perspective toward the use of embedded media. The use of embedded reporters is considered as a force multiplier because it is a way in which the military can obtain the informational advantage and counter the emotional propaganda that the enemy may have published through various press outlets. The following excerpt from chapter 4, of the Army’s Field Manual 3.0, Operations (2008) lays the foundation for the military’s general acceptance and willingness to accommodate embedded reporters.
Information is a powerful tool in the operational environment. In modern conflict information has become as important as lethal action in determining the outcome of operations. Every engagement, battle, and major operation requires complementary information operations to both inform a global audience and to influence audiences within the operational area; it is a weapon against enemy command and control and is a means to affect enemy morale. It is both constructive and destructive. Commanders use information operations to understand, visualize, describe and direct the war fighting functions. Soldiers constantly use information to persuade and inform target audiences. Since information shapes the perceptions of the civilian population, it also shapes much of the operational environment. All parties in a conflict use information to convey, their message to various audiences. These include enemy forces adversaries and neutral and friendly populations. Information is critical in stability operations where the population is a major factor in success. While the five stability tasks are essential for success, without complementary information engagement that explains these actions to the population success may be unattainable. Information must be proactive as well as reactive. Countering the enemy’s messages with factual and effective friendly messages can be as important as the physical actions of soldiers. (FM 3-0 2008, 4-3)
The military’s own doctrine acknowledged the importance of information on the battled and communicating with various audiences. One way in which the military attempted to communicate its message was through the use of embedded reporters.
In addition, the 3rd Infantry Division (ID) after action report on the practice and usefulness of the embedded media program stated that one of the benefits was that provided an accurate and truthful picture that countered state run media propaganda (3 ID AAR, 11-19-03), as was the case during the invasion of Baghdad in 2003. To further support this perspective, U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Lehman identified in his thesis written for the Naval War College, “that the embedded media program is the most effective asset available for both increasing public support and countering enemy propaganda.” Comparatively, the article “Media/Military Relations: Embedded,” stated that an advantage gained from employing embedded media is that it provides a “frontline in-depth view of armed forces in action” (newsafety 2009).
The Doctrine of the Public Affairs
Public Affairs are important to the success or perceived success of any military operation. Department of Defense, Joint Publication (JP) 3-61, Public Affairs, identified the mission of joint public affairs as providing an expedited flow of accurate and timely information about the United States joint forces to the public and internal audiences (JP 3-61 1997). Likewise, it stated that the development of public affairs doctrine is based on “the need to accommodate the mission of the armed forces of the United States with that of the news media” (JP 3-61 1997, v). This publication maintains that the military is accountable and responsible to the U.S. public for implementing its mission of national defense” (1997, v). Subsequently, the news media is the principal means for communicating information on the military to the general public (JP-3-61 1997, vi).
According to JP 3-61, the Department of Defense has several public affairs principles that cover a full range of military operations. They are: (1) “that information be timely and accurate; (2) that requests for information be answered in a timely manner;
(3) that information be made fully available unless it is under security classification or endangers the lives of Service members; and (4) that information cannot be classified to protect the government from criticism or embarrassment” (1997, vi). Also, the Joint Publication identified that “Joint public affairs has the critical task of advancing consistent and credible information about US joint forces to the American public and our allies via the news media and military journalists covering the operation” (1997, v). Generally speaking, the military is assigned the responsibility to regularly work with the news media in order to ensure and facilitate the dissemination of accurate and timely information to the general public, military personnel, civilian employees and family members (JP 3-61 1997, v-vi.).
For the Army, joint operations are an ongoing fact of life. The general trend for the U. S. Armed Forces is that no military conflict will be conducted by just one service, but by a multiservice force. Therefore, it is crucial to understand joint public affairs doctrine and to mesh it together with the Army’s public affairs doctrine. This is especially important in regard to the media because all branches of service encounter and embed media personnel on the battlefield
Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-5.3, Public Affairs Operations (2005), broadly categorizes the media as an element of the Global Information Environment (GIE), defined as; “all individuals, organizations, or systems that collect, process, and disseminate information for public consumption” (AFDD 2-5.3 2005, 3). On a broader view, public affairs is an element of information operations with public affairs playing a critical role in influence operations that seek to protect operations, communicate the military’s perspective, and project information that could potentially impact the perceptions and behavior of leaders, groups and entire populations (AFDD 2005). The Air Force doctrine identified and addressed fourteen foundational doctrine statements that include: (1) sharing timely, useful, and accurate information of Air Force activities to domestic and international audiences; (2) the identification that truth is the foundation of all public affairs; and (3) that public affairs will be the lead to counter adversary propaganda (AFDD 2-5.3 2005). Although AFDD 2-5.3 (2005) did not distinguish the embedded media concept, its principle of media engagement identified that all reporters covering military operations are to be granted access to units and air force personnel.
Comparatively, Army Field Manual (FM) 46-1, Public Affairs Operations (1997), identified the mission of public affairs as keeping “the American people and the Army informed, and helps to establish the conditions that lead to confidence in America’s Army and its readiness to conduct operations in peacetime, conflict, and war” (1997, 3). Additionally, this manual identified public affairs as an “integral part of all military missions across the continuum”(1997, 6) and that everything the Army does to complete its mission, whether the actions be identified as good or bad, fits into the global information environment. Public affairs operations for the Army include public information, command information, and community relations. FM 46-1 described public affairs as a tool for competent leadership and battle command, essential to mission accomplishment. It assists the commander in achieving information dominance through coordinated information operations and in ensuring public support for the military operations. Public affairs when successfully employed by the military “fights rumors, misinformation, boredom, enemy disinformation efforts, uncertainty, fear, loneliness, confusion [in the local and international audiences] and other factors that cause stress and undermine efficient operations” (FM 46-1 1997, 7).
Markedly, the Department of the Army’s, Field Manual 3-0, Operations, (2008) identified that public affairs has a statutory requirement to factually and accurately communicate with its various publics without propaganda or manipulation. Also, the operations manual identified that commanders shape the environment by providing information to the media and by allowing media access. The military uses its public affairs doctrine to govern its relationship with the media. In recent conflicts, the public affairs officer was the liaison between the military and the media. These officers provided information to the media. However, many times this information was viewed by the media as not newsworthy information which created frustration for both the Public Affairs Officer and the reporters. This frustration still exists; and therefore, it is important to explore the type of information that the media views as newsworthy.
What is News?
What exactly is considered news in today’s fast paced global world? How is news determined? How does an event turn into a news story? How do reporters obtain their information? Globally, there are so many day-to-day events occurring that it is impossible for news organizations to cover them all. According to Deborah Potter (2008), author of the article “What is News?” news is what is new and what is happening. Potter further stated that most of what occurs around the world never makes it into the news. Potter’s ideas and the media’s limitations in covering events are illustrated in the following quote, “On any given day, the world is full of happenings such as wars, riots, consumer frauds, spelling bees, family violence, scientific achievements, political speeches, and human sorrows and happiness. Obviously, the news media cannot (and does not) cover all of these events” (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 268). Peter Turkington (2009), consultant and partner in Strategic Communications Solutions, stated:
The basic premise that attracts reporters is friction--two competing agendas; two people facing off over a contentious issue, two groups that are at odds with each other. Friction leads to interest, and that’s what reporters and editors want. Ultimately they want a story that will cause their readers, listeners, or viewers to sit up and pay attention. If the story isn’t out of the ordinary--if it’s just every day stuff--it will not be read, heard or seen.
As such, many events around the world are never communicated through a news medium.
Typically, reporters who work for news organizations are assigned a beat, a group of institutions, or specific topics to cover such as sports, the White House, or international, entertainment. Once reporters receive their assignments, they set out to establish contacts and reliable sources that they will frequently utilize as an information source. Events or stories that occur on the fringes of the reporter’s beat of topic will normally not be covered unless the event is spectacular (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002). Turkington (2009) adds that once a reporter has found a story his/her audience will like he/she will answer the 5 W’s known as who, what, where, when, and why and then add a 6th W for why should we care and an H for how.
Reporters generally work under a deadline and typically like using sources of information that they have used before and have developed a trusting relationship with (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002). AFDD 2-5.3 (2005) identified that real-time analysis reporters and editors alike, in today’s 24 hour reporting cycle, generally print a story without possessing full situational awareness and, thereby placing emphasis on seizing the initiative and then provide updates. Also, Pratkanis and Aronson (2002), identified that more and more reporters work for large media corporations that have certain biases and preferences which unfortunately results in pressure for certain types of stories.
Objectivity is often identified as being an intention and goal of reporters covering a story. While this may be an intention, it is rarely reality, especially since more and more reporters work for large media corporations. Many times these large media conglomerates may place certain pressures on reporters and certain stories are encouraged or discouraged depending upon a written story’s implication to the parent company (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002). Historically, objectivity has been pushed aside as was done during the Spanish-American War. According to Lande, objectivity was pushed aside for sensationalism (1995, 127). Another factor that can influence objectivity is the demand for a reporter to write a story that will appeal to and hold an audience’s attention. This is critical to the media because it is dependent upon advertising. Advertisers want to advertise in a medium that reaches the maximum amount of people; therefore, advertising companies typically advertise on mediums that have strong ratings in terms of readership, viewership, and volume of sales. As a result of these pressures and industry traditions, reporters look for stories that (1) are new and timely topics, (2) involve conflict and scandal or controversy, (3) concern strange and unusual happenings or oddity, (4) are about familiar or famous people or prominence, (5) are capable of being made dramatic and personal, (6) are simple to convey in a short period of time or currency, (7) contain visual elements or impact, and (8) fit a theme that is currently prominent in the news or society or proximity (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 274; Potter 2008). These story requirements lead the media to decide and set the agenda as to what events are reported as news. Bernard Cohen commented that the mass media “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. . . . The world will look different to different people, depending on the map that is drawn for them by writers, editors, and publishers of the papers they read” (Rogers and Dearing 1988; Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 87). Although this quote specifically directed toward the print medium it is applicable to other forms of communication mediums such as broadcasting and the Internet.
Agenda setting to the communication organization is very important because it is a form of power that can impact the political and social agenda. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that “I watch the news not for control but to see what was covered and how much it was covered in order to determine what the country received” (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 84.) Moreover, Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, authors of the article, The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media, stated “Most of what people know comes to them “second” or “third” hand from the mass media . . .” (1972, 176). Furthermore they noted that “the media force attention to certain issues . . . presenting objects that suggest to people what they should think about” (McCombs and Shaw 1972, 177). It is important to note that while media organizations possess different ideas as to what is printed, the military recognizes that most major national and international outlets focus heavily on military operations during times of international crisis and war” (AFDD 2005, 4). This in turn means that the media has been, is and will continue to be an influential actor in military operations
In today’s contemporary world, the term propaganda is negatively received and thought of as deliberate spreading of lies. In fact, this is how the military views the term propaganda. AFDD 2-5.3 (2005) stated that adversaries will twist information against the U.S. in order to suit their propaganda needs but the military’s public affairs operations are based on truth and will not intentionally seek to misinform Congress, the public or the media. What is the root definition of propaganda and has the word been viewed negatively throughout time?
The original definition given to the word is “dissemination of biased ideas and opinions, often through the use of lies and deception” (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 11). However as time passed, the term took on a much broader meaning than the original use and definition of the word. For example, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defined propaganda as (1) the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person; and (2) ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also: a public action having such an effect.
Adding to the definition provided by Merriam Webster, Pratkanis and Aronson, editors of the book Age of Propaganda, defined propaganda as “mass suggestion or influence through the manipulation of symbols and the psychology of the individual” (2002, 11). Similarly, the article “What is propaganda” published in the Thinkquest library (2001) defined propaganda as the manipulation of the public that is carried out through the media. In summarizing the terms usage over the years, Jeanie Turner (2009) in her article “The Definition of Propaganda” described propaganda is an enigma that has defied historians. Its definition is broad; it impacts every aspect of life and has been used since ancient times. Propaganda uses images, slogans, and symbols that can play on prejudices and emotions by communicating a point of view that achieves the ultimate goal of having the recipient of the appeal come to voluntarily accept the position as if it were his or her own (Sproule 1994; 1997). The American Historical Association (1944) identified that a propagandist knows techniques that make ideas “stick;” and therefore, he/she will use key words, slogans, shibboleths, and other symbolic forms in his/her propaganda message.
The origins of the term are traced to 1622 when Pope Gregory XV created the Papal Propaganda Office, Sacra Congregation de Propaganda Fide, in order to attend to the effects and consequences of the Reformation (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002; American Historical Association 1944). According to Noam Chomsky (1997), WW I was the first time in history in which a highly organized state propaganda plan was used. Also, an increased use of the term propaganda occurred during World War I (WWI) to describe the persuasive tactics used by the government. Propaganda assumed its present day negative connotation as a result of Hitler’s propaganda campaign during WWII (Chomsky 1997) and the media would use the term to describe the control and dissemination of information by totalitarian regimes. The following supports the totalitarian regime idea: “Any revolutionary would be leader worth his or her thought knows that a primary objective is to secure the public’s source of news” (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 268).
Propaganda is all about persuasion and it can be used in a negative manner in which the author of the influencing comments intentionally presents false information or in a positive manner where the author seeks to establish support for a policy through the dissemination of accurate positive information. Turner (2009) identified in her article that propaganda is good and bad and is the most powerful political tool that can be employed by a politician. An example of negatively used propaganda can be found by terms employed by Adolf Hitler during World War II when he used the media to project the Jewish people as the scapegoat for all societal problems in Germany and spoke about the “Jewish Problem.” Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, described the power of words: “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. What after all are a square and a circle? They are mere words and words can be molded until they clothe ideas in disguise” (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 79).
Elements and patterns are used to create influencing propaganda? In today’s contemporary world there are many techniques that are used within all communication mediums. In fact Pratkanis and Aronson described the media as “the primary vehicle for many persuasive appeals” (2002, 7). Persuasive communication is not a new phenomenon and is found in all sorts of professions and cultures. In fact, the first noted theory of persuasion is rhetoric (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002) which is still used in various communication and speeches given by political leaders around the world.
Rhetoric, a word that defies definition, has come to be defined by multiple meanings and is used for many different scenarios and situations. Aristotle’s definition for rhetoric is “the faculty of finding all the available means of persuasion in a given case” (Crocker 1967, 1) Comparatively, Crocker stated, “Rhetoric is one of those words, like art, that can mean anything the user intends to have it mean” (1967, 1). Adding to this, Genung defined rhetoric as “the art of adapting discourse, in harmony with its subject and occasion, to the requirements of a reader or hearers” (Crocker 1967, 1). Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines rhetoric as: “(1) the art of speaking or writing effectively; (2) the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion; and (3) skill in the effective use of speech” (Merriam-Webster). In addition, Triadafilopoulos concluded that Aristotle viewed rhetoric as a “potential ally in our struggle to define the appropriate ends of political life” (1999, 743). Moreover, Aristotle saw rhetoric as the companion to the dialectic. That is the “reasoning that seeks to discover general truths from common opinions” (Triadafilopoulos 1999, 744) with rhetoric being the vehicle in which the truths are communicated. Also, Aristotle viewed political rhetoric as a concern for the public because it related to the public’s interests (Triadafilopoulos 1999). This is especially important for wartime leaders because their rhetoric seeks to gain support of the public or soothe the national mood during a wartime crisis.
Therefore, although propaganda maintains a negative connotation, its counterpart rhetoric can be used in a positive manner. Government leaders have effectively used rhetoric, including Winston Churchill, who encouraged the British people not to give up hope when they were bombed by German fighters; and President George W. Bush’s, characterization of Iran, North Korea, and Iraq as being part of an “axis of evil,” that is those countries who sought to have nuclear weapons. Rhetoric is not the only way to persuade. The selection of language allows a significant amount of latitude in the interpretation of the words used. The manner in which words are employed can direct a person’s thoughts and cognitive responses (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002). Persuasion can be accomplished in several ways including (1) the use of short, catchy and often visually oriented messages; (2) the use of analogies and metaphors that produce some type of comparison while hiding others and providing a structure for making sense of ambiguous information; (3) the use of images, because they are accepted as reality and are rarely questioned; (4) the use of generalities, (5) the use of positive connotative words that when used are ambiguous in context, and (6) agenda setting, which is a technique often used by the media or other speakers who want to control what is discussed or presented (Pratkanis and Aronson 2002, 11, 86-88).
In the article “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream,” Noam Chomsky (1997), identified that there are different media that do different types of stories but in the end the media’s purpose is to direct the audience. Likewise he argued that there is another sector of media, called the elite media also known as the agenda setting media. This type of media is identified as possessing significant resources which allows them to set the framework from which all others operate (Chomsky 1997). Examples of the elite media would be organizations like The New York Times, Columbia Broadcasting System, and Cable News Network. The purpose of the elite media is to divert people’s thoughts away from serious topics to activities such as sports or television. Furthermore, Chomsky (1997) included the media into a wider agenda setting system, that included large companies, institutions, universities, and politics that controlled what people see and hear.
The Influence of the Media
The global media have the ability to impact world views and opinions as they provide information. Although it is widely acknowledged that the media are in a transition due to the advances of technology that are challenging the dominance of print media they still possess the ability to influence audiences. This statement recognized the media’s influence: “There is no doubt that the media are no longer peripheral players, and the ebb and flow of international conflict is taking on more of a character of social drama and becoming less of a simplified, culturally independent game of strategy” (Arno 1980, 231). Furthermore, the media are often categorized as having “enormous power” in the contemporary United States because of their ability to influence the political processes of the nation (Arno 1980). AFDD 2-5.3 (2005) highlighted the influence of the media by identifying that although public media organizations are not part of the U.S. Government or the armed services they can directly affect the success or failure of military operations through their strategic reach that may influence national and international decision makers.
This type of influence was seen during the Vietnam War and more recently in the 2008 Presidential elections. In Vietnam, when the media delivered stories showing the devastation of S. Vietnam and war’s impact on civilian populace these stories negatively influenced the public’s opinion towards the war and caused protests around the country. Also, in the 2008 elections the media’s coverage of the presidential and vice presidential candidates created powerful stereotypes, especially in regard to Sarah Palin, ones that could be considered “sexist, liberally biased, and out of line” (Carswell 2008). For instance, she made a comment about Russia which was showcased in various news media that was later turned into a satirical skit for the late night entertainment show, Saturday Night Live. This show displayed a look a-like actress that stated: “I can see Russia from my house.” Her other many speaking blunders were pounced upon and elevated to the point that made her appear to be a simpleton without a clue, or as identified by CNN in the recent article, a policy lightweight or, worse, incompetent (Mooney 2009).
The media are accused of influencing the internal struggles among the centers of interests and providing a stage for the persuasive attempts by actors to build a consensus for foreign policy actions (Arno 1980). Examples of such persuasive attempts are the recent press conferences held by President Obama seeking to garner support, from the American people, for his healthcare reforms or his presidential speech on the new strategy for military operations in Afghanistan that identified Afghanistan as being vital to U.S. national interests. Judith Baroody, in her book Media Access and the Military: The case of the gulf war wrote: “In reporting, the media in any political system that enjoys some degree of freedom provides information that may be accurate or distorted, but they also play a part in setting the national agenda and guiding mass opinion” (Baroody 1998, vii). Furthermore, she furthers identified the effect of the media:
When national security is at stake, the question of a reporter’s role takes on greater urgency. The media can act as cheerleaders for a particular side, boost or lower moral among troops, persuade those who allocate funds for defense that their money is well spent or squandered. The spin of a story picks up a velocity of its own during military engagements and can influence the outcome of the conflict. (Baroody 1998, vii)
Therefore, how the media conveys a story can have positive or negative ramification for the military operation.
Andrew Arno, in the book The News Media in National and International Conflicts, classified the media as a “third party” that “either provides good offices or serves as a mediator, an arbitrator, or an adjudicator” (1980, 232). In general, the third-party is critical to communication between the primary parties, in the case of this paper the military and the people of the United Sates, because it acts as a “go-between and shuttles messages back and forth when the principals do not or cannot approach one another directly” (Arno 1980, 232), such as during a wartime situation. Organizations that are classified as third party organizations typically need the conflict of others in order to function (Arno 1980). Often times, this conflict situation places the third party in a “position of power, and, to the tertius gaudens, [a party benefitting from the conflict of two other parties] one of potential profit as well (Arno 1980, 234). Profit is a critical element to the functionability and survivability of a media organization. It cannot effectively function unless it is able to turn a profit. Therefore, the media view power and profit as strong motivators and seek to maximize both (Arno 1980).
It is important to understand that the power of the media stems from the fact that the media not only transmit information but also frame and interpret the information of the messages conveyed (Arno 1980). The following labels for the media, some positive and some negative, summarize the influence that the media are viewed to have:
(1) selfless revolutionaries, (2) fearless truth seekers, (3) responsible agenda setter, (4) benign gatekeepers, (5) development promoters, (6) hidden persuaders, (7) sinister manipulators, and (8) muckrakers (Arno 1980, 3). The influence of the media is so strong that it is sometimes classified as the Fourth Estate of Government. As the Fourth Estate, the media are to hold accountable those elected to office and to inform the public. For generations the media have been accepted as a vital element of democracy and earned the title as the Fourth Estate because they represent a counterbalance to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government and thereby provide balance to society (Raider 2008). Bill Moyers (2008), in his article “Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column?” calls this title into question. He wrote, “Sadly, in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth.”
Impact of Technology on Military Media Relations
Over the years, as technology changed so too did the military-media relationship change. Speed of information transmission and dissemination came with new technological advancements resulting in a reduction of the time required to transmit and publish stories. For instance, broadcast journalist Ted Koppel in 2003, when comparing media coverage of Iraq to that of Vietnam, stated that “As much as three days might elapse between the time that the story was written and the time that it got on the air.” While Vietnam with its technological improvements took at least three days to reach the public; stories during the Mexican-American War took weeks to reach the United States even with the use of steamboats and the telegraph. During the Crimean war, where the telegraph first played a role in message delivery, quickness of delivery took at a minimum a month to reach the public. Furthermore, technological improvements were not only in the realm of delivery but also in the visual realm. During World War I, pictures of combat actions taken by journalists at the front became an effective propaganda tool in terms of creating public support for the war on both sides of the conflict. These pictures impacted the audience more than the written words that accompanied them in the paper.
During World War II, radio was a fairly new medium and the quickest way to communicate information to the public. It was critical in rallying and encouraging the fighting forces, domestic populations in the countries involved in the war, as well as, the international community. A well-known example of a person who effectively used the new medium was Winston Churchill. On May 19, 1940, he gave his first broadcast speech titled “The Impending Ordeal: ‘Be Ye Men of Valour.’” This speech had two intended audiences, the soldiers fighting the Germans in France and the British population and two peripheral audiences, the French and the international community.
The speech, broadcast over the radio and quoted in newspapers was intended to encourage the British Armed Forces who faced considerable danger from the German Army which had infiltrated and rendered ineffective the French defensive lines. Churchill gave the speech to reassure and rally support from the British public and rally the troops on the battlefield, while acknowledging that the current war would be a long struggle that the British population would resiliently endure and eventually overcome. British soldiers were encouraged to continue fighting when Churchill stated, “We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the presence of these armored vehicles,” and the public was encouraged to support the soldiers, and the country’s plight and determination was communicated to the international community when he stated, “I am sure I speak for all when I say we are ready to face it; to endure it; and to retaliate against it--to any extent that the unwritten laws of war permit. . . . If the battle is to be won, we must provide our men with ever increasing quantities of the weapons and ammunition they need” (Cannadine 2002, 152-153). One notable broadcast journalist is Edward Murrow, CBS correspondent and pioneer of broadcast journalism. Murrow, broadcast live during the bombings of Britain and gave oral accounts of the damage. He also followed the soldiers to the front lines and went on approximately 20 bombing raids.
As radio was to World War II, so was television to Vietnam. Vietnam was considered the first modern war in which television played a significant role. Hearing and reading about death and destruction was one thing but actually seeing it on television was another. The visual impact of seeing the realities of war influenced the change in public opinion toward the war especially after the Tet Offensive. A few weeks prior to this offensive, the public was told by the president that the United States was winning the war. So, when the public saw pictures of the Viet Cong attacking and eventually entering the U.S embassy compound in South Vietnam it public felt betrayed by the government. In the midst of the confusion created by the attack, the military relayed inaccurate information to the media that resulted in inaccurate news stories.
An example of a news report that incorrectly conveyed information received during the attack was a story published by The Washington Post. The headline in The Washington Post stated, “Vietcong seize U.S Embassy; Building retaken in firefight” (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 112.) This headline led the population to believe that the whole embassy had been overrun by the Vietcong. When, in actuality, the reality of the situation was that a few Vietcong sappers entered the outer perimeters of the embassy compound and engaged in a seven hour battle with the Marines who stopped the attack. The sappers never entered the embassy building, and the Marines guarding the embassy compound never engaged in a firefight to retake the building because it had never been breached by the Vietcong. The incorrectness of the story did not matter in the long-term because the images broadcasted on television were broadcasted over and over again and forever engrained in the audience’s minds creating the impression that the government misrepresented and misinformed the public on the actual status of events in Vietnam.
An important difference between World War II and Vietnam was that during World War II, the government established a Government Office of Information to provide information to the media. However, during Vietnam, no such office was established which contributed to easy publication of inaccurate information. After the Tet Offensive, the information provided to the media, by the Johnson Administration, concerning military actions in Vietnam was viewed by the media with new found skepticism. As a result, the media was classified as a watch dog during Vietnam and viewed as an adversary of the military, which effectively eroded the fragile trust, established between the media and the military during World War II and thus created a less cooperative information sharing environment that would last for decades.
The Gulf War is most known for the instantaneous reporting from the battlefield due to the satellite transmission. The Cable News Network (CNN), the pioneer of the twenty-four hour news cycle, covered the war live and continuously. For the first time in history, military conflict and its effects were conveyed live to multiple audiences almost like a “reality” television show. Hudson and Stanier identified the Gulf War as the most widely and swiftly reported war in history (1998, 209). Reports were transmitted instantaneously via satellite to waiting multitudes of people around the world. “Throughout the reporting of wars, it is to human emotions that the media makes its appeal. Pride and shame, hatred and pity, courage and fear are all ruthlessly exploited to involve the audience in the news of the day. Seldom has a medium of communication been used more widely to spread these emotions than in the Gulf War” (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 241-242).
Today, the immediacy created by technological advances in transmission capability have created an environment that requires government and military officials to quickly decide what information should be released, when it should be released and placed more pressure on the military to respond to and communicate with the media. Also, information released to an internal military audience can quickly enter the external media environment due to the advance in technology (AFDD 2-5.3 2005). The AFDD (2005) described today’s media as possessing global reach with capabilities and tactics that emulate those of the U.S. military. This manual further described the media as possessing the ability to leverage technology and through a complex network or reporters which allows them to cover stories in as many dimensions as possible (AFDD 2005). For the military this means that most modern military operations have at least one side’s actions broadcasted in real-time, extensively analyzed and editorialized about (AFDD 2005) as was seen during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Overall this increased coverage is viewed as an opportunity to share the military’s story which in turn builds public trust, enhances morale, and strengthens global influence (AFDD 2005); however, the coverage can be used in a manner that negatively impacts the military.
Furthermore, today’s technology is not only employed by the media and the military but also by civilians who are connected to the Internet via cellular phone and can instantly send images all around the world as events happen; an example of this are the events 9-11 that were recorded and photographed by civilians and shared with an global audience. As a result of this immediacy and civilian participation in disseminating information, the government and the military have less control over the information sharing environment than they had in the past which has forced policy changes in how information sharing and dissemination is handled (Baroody 1998). Therefore, instances such as denying reporters access to the battlefield are not likely to succeed as they did during the Falkland Islands War and the U.S. invasion of Grenada or as pooling the press was done in the Gulf War. Impact of technology throughout history has significantly changed the way in which the government and the military disseminate information, employ the use of modern communication means, and engage the public and the media.
The Pattern of Censorship
A study of Censorship tendencies indicate a pattern that bounces back and forth between open reporting with no censorship to reporting that is heavily censored during wartime. The decision to censor or not censor depends on the political and military leaders in charge at the time of the military engagement and the perceived impact of media on public opinion during previously conducted military operations. Additionally, the press experiences of British forces during wartime appear to impact the openness and receptiveness that the military leadership in the United States has towards the media and vice versa, especially if the conflicts are close together in time. During the Mexican- American, the Crimean, and Civil Wars, war reporting was relatively free of military censorship aside from a few commanders like General Sherman who did not like media correspondents. Essentially, correspondents were allowed to write and send stories to their editors without obtaining approval from a military censor. Vietnam was an open war that produced negative public opinion. So, when Britain went to war in the Falklands, it denied reporters access to the battle field. The United States followed the same pattern for Grenada in 1983 and later in the decade for the invasion of Panama. When the United States went to war against Iraq in 1991, it remembered Britain’s experience with the Falklands as well as its own experiences in Grenada and Panama; and therefore, implemented pool reporting and controlled the media’s access to the battlefield.
Military acceptance was not present for reporters covering the Boer War in 1898. These reporters were required to submit their stories to a military censor before they could telegraph them back to their editors (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 26). The censorship was believed to be a reaction to the results of the open reporting of the Crimea War that exposed the logistical failures, failed leadership, and harsh conditions of the battlefield experienced by soldiers. This reporting forced the government and the military to change how it conducted warfare and fostered the creation of Britain’s highest award for valor, the Victoria Cross. The creation of the Victoria Cross was due to the public pressure placed on the government by the people after reading about the realities of war and the sacrifices of the British forces. Remarkably, reporters were adept at finding ways around the censorship requirements during the Boer War. For instance, Winston Churchill, a press correspondent attached to the 21st Lancers, evaded censorship by sending his stories as letters instead of using the telegraph. When the Boer War broke out in 1898, censorship under Sir Redvers Henry Buller was extreme. Buller’s views of the press are described as typical for an officer serving in the British during this time period. On his journey to South Africa he forbade his officers from speaking with the press; furthermore, Buller refused to take correspondents with him. If correspondents managed to get to the field, their stories were censored and they were allowed to only publish facts that did not provide the enemy useful information (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 31). By the same token, they were not allowed to print opinion due to the political implications and they had to be accredited or accepted by the commander of the force that they wanted to cover (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 31). For the United States, the Spanish American War in 1898 was a censored war.
Censorship of the press during World War I was conducted by the press itself because no press organization wanted to go against the government’s position and the military (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 48). Philip Gibbs, a British correspondent for The Daily Telegraph in London wrote, “We identified ourselves absolutely with the army in the field. . . . We wiped out of our minds all thoughts of personal scoops and all temptations to write one word which would make the task of the officers and the men more difficult or dangerous. . . . There was no need of censorship of our dispatches. We were our own censors” (Knightly 1975, 97). Hudson and Stanier (1998), noted that the war correspondents during WWI had very little impact on the conduct of the war and that they played a role of disseminating propaganda in order to keep the morale at home high; therefore, most stories written did not reveal the hard truth of the events happening in Europe during the war. Likewise, during WWI, the British Government established the position of chief sensor in the war office (Hudson and Stanier 1998). The duties of the chief sensor included the perusal and censoring of all letters and telegrams coming from France. Prior to receiving the letters and telegrams from France, British military officers had to read and censor the stories and letters written by the war correspondents. The correspondents who accompanied the United States were censored through the press section of the military intelligence service (Baroody 1998, 51).
During World War II, the U.S. Office of Censorship assumed the duties from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The director of this office was Byron Price, a Pulitzer prize-winning career journalist and acting editor of the associated press, who created a code of wartime practices for war correspondents. This code identified the type of information that could not be printed and included such things as information on troops, arms, and military installations. All war correspondents were expected to follow the rules or they would lose their accreditation. However, for the most part, press reporters were free to go anywhere that they wanted to go and the military helped them go.
Initially, censorship did not exist during the Korean War. The military’s initial request for the correspondents was that they not write stories that provided strategic or helpful information to the North Koreans. Moreover, their stories were not censored prior to being sent to their editors. This policy ended in January 1951 when General Douglas MacArthur, the commander in the Pacific, instituted a strictly followed policy of censorship. Reporters who did not follow the established rules of censorship were banished from the country for helping the enemy (Hudson and Stanier 1987, 94).
The Vietnam War was an uncensored war where journalists were free to roam where they wanted. Milton Bates stated that “The only censorship in Vietnam was self-censorship on ethical matters that varied with the reporter” (Bates 2000, xv). Initially during the Vietnam War, the media for the most part supported the war and the government. However, after the Tet Offensive the coverage by the media became a matter discrediting the government. Therefore, the coverage was perceived as being biased, the cause of many problems, and responsible for changing public opinion.
The Gulf War has numerous stories of censorship. One example comes from The New York Times reporter Malcolm Browne, who testified that he filed a story about America’s air triumph against Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons facilities after operations were concluded, but his story was never allowed to be printed because the military held onto his story until clearance was given. In the meantime, the French Press Agency broke the story which was subsequently followed by an announcement from General Schwarzkopf. By the time the military approved his story for release, it was already considered old news; and therefore, not profitable to print (Smith 1992, xvii).
In the present conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq, the military does not censor the media. Reporters unilateral and embedded alike are allowed to write and send stories back to his or her parent company. However, the reporters who do embed with military units must sign an agreement known as “media ground rules.” The document identifies the information that cannot be published due to force protection and operation security concerns, such as troop location, future operations, and troop strength. Most embedded reporters understand the need for media ground rules and will operate in accordance to the rules.
The concept of censoring over the years has depended upon the leaders in charge at the time of the military conflict and the media relations experienced in previous wars. This resulted in the bouncing back and forth pattern of censor or not censor. However, due to technological advances and societal changes, censorship in today’s world is not as easy as it used to be which has created a more open environment that will probably not see censorship applied as it was applied in past military conflicts.
History of the Military Correspondent
The media-military relationship with war correspondents is an enduring relationship that can be traced back to the Mexican-American War. However, one could argue that the start point of military-media relations has roots in the American Revolution. Historically, the argument can be made that the reason the military exists at all is due to the media. For instance, from 1750 to 1776, many pamphlets were published by various authors that communicated the spirit of the American Revolution. Authors including Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams, James Otis, and John Dickinson, discussed various aspects of the American dispute and communicated the political ideals ensconced by the leaders of the American Revolution. Although these pamphlets were written prior to the establishment of the Continental Congress and the Continental Army, they communicated ideas and created conditions which contributed to the American Revolution and the need to create a military force.
The pamphleteers and the pamphlets that they wrote not only influenced the leaders but also the people living in the colonies. The pamphlets were written with a tremendous amount of passion but lacked in accuracy, and the writers of the pamphlets either favored independence or the crown (Lande 1995). Objectivity was not a consideration during the American Revolution. Consequently, the news that reached those writing pamphlets typically arrived in the form of unconfirmed rumors from the battlefield and most of the actual battle data that was published arrived in the form of letters written by someone known to be in the area (Lande 1995). These people were called stringers and could have been part of the military or not. The news that was printed during the Revolutionary war could not be considered fresh news when printed because of the distance in time from the event and when the story was published. The battle of Kings Mountain, a battle between two colonial forces was reported weeks after the battle occurred (Lande 1995). It is also interesting to note that Isaiah Thomas, a participant in the April 19, 1775 Battle of Lexington, wrote a report shortly after the battle for the May 3, 1775 issue of Massachusetts Spy (Deparle 1992, 63). The War of 1812 was very similar to the American Revolution in terms of the amount of time that it took for the actual event to be reported as news. An example of the delay of information is found in the battle of New Orleans which occurred twelve days after the diplomats from each country signed the peace accord (Lande 1995).
The Mexican-American War is the first conflict in which correspondents traveled with American soldiers. Many of the correspondents were the actually military officers who performed their duties as an officer in the United States Army and wrote news stories for news organizations (Lande 1995). Additionally, news correspondents that were not part of the military followed the forces on the battlefield and wrote dispatches from the front lines. General Zachary Taylor, Commander of the United States Army in Mexico, was accompanied by a newsman who rode with Taylor wherever he went and reported on the status of the Mexican American War (Deparle 1992, 63).
Despite the presence of non-military writers in the Mexican American War, the first war credited with the presence of official civilian correspondents, employed by a news organization, was the Crimean War when press correspondents accompanied British military forces. Correspondents sent descriptive reports home via the telegraph, the new communication technology of the time. Reports inundated the citizens of the Great Britain with heroic testimonials concerning the valorous actions of the common soldier, graphic depictions of the harsh battlefield, the failures in leadership by military leaders, and the logistical shortcomings of the campaign. Reports significantly increased the public’s awareness of the conditions endured by the military resulting in an ensuing public outcry which led to the creation of Britain’s highest award for valor, the Victoria Cross. In the book Britain’s Roll of Glory or The Victoria Cross: Its heroes and their valour, Parry and Wood showcased the logistical mindset and mismanagement and the impact that these shortcomings had on the Crimean War. “The British Army was badly equipped: stiff stocks, tight uniforms, heavy accoutrements, and inferior boots were considered good enough for our men, and we owe many of the necessary reforms since adopted to that war” (Parry and Wood 1898, 7). Though the war caused the adoption of logistical reforms, the instrument that exposed the need was the media. Although, the United States did not participate in this war, it is the first time that war correspondents were used. This provided an example to media organizations in the United States who sent correspondents to the front lines during the Civil War.
Whereas the Crimean War introduced the war correspondent, the American Civil War saw an enormous influx in the amount of war correspondents covering the war due to transmission ease induced by the availability of the telegraph. In the North alone there were about 500 correspondents. Despite the amount of correspondents covering the war, the type of reporting was viewed as portraying “‘body politic’ . . . full of blatant misrepresentations and skullduggery of every kind in the transmission of war news” (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 23). Moreover, the concept of “getting the scoop” was introduced during the Civil War. This concept created as a result of the telegraph allowed editors to print news about an event the day after it occurred; therefore, editors encouraged correspondents to obtain news stories first. Information during the Civil War had its foundations in immediacy vice accuracy (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 23).
Prior to the Civil War, there was not a tradition of war reporting in the United States. There were war correspondents who did report, but the concept was new and not frequently used by all media organizations. The rise of the professional war correspondent was due to the advent of the telegraph. Correspondents were inexperienced, and editors demonstrated a penchant for drama in order to build the readership of the newspaper. The editors required war correspondents to send in as many stories as possible, and if there were no stories to send, they were to fabricate a story based on rumor or gossip (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 23). Wilbur Storey, editor of The Chicago Times, sent a telegraph to one of his correspondents that stated “telegraph full, all news you can get and when there is no news send rumor” (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 23). Moreover, the civil war saw correspondents bribing the military for a story. Louis M. Starr wrote:
The "Bohemian Brigade" was the self-styled name for the young and daring northern newspapermen who reported the battles for their respective publications. They were a race apart and rather delightedly conscious of it. They had a roving commission, and they lived like vagabonds in the open air among the armies, white tents, cannon, drums, and fighting. Competition ruled these Bohemians. While it inspired their finest work, it also drove them to "bribery, subterfuge, plagiarism, and outright fakery. (Chenoweth 2003)
Another characteristic that surfaced during the Civil War was that the North and the South both viewed the war as a matter of “national survival.” Editors and correspondents on both sides of the conflict willingly used “propaganda” in order to further the cause, which often meant that stories written during the Civil War were slanted, inaccurate and one sided in support of the Northern or Southern perspectives of the war.
Foreign correspondents also covered the Civil War. The famed William Russell, a London Times correspondent who covered the Crimean War, wrote about the American Civil War. Many of his stories were based on his own observations and were very unpopular in the United States because they differed drastically from the stories written by American correspondents. At one point, early in the Civil War, he reported that the North was losing the war and shocked many of the people living in the Northern states. This report made him very unpopular in the North and he received death threats as a result of his reporting (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 23). However, his reporting impacted the war in that; it reflected accurately the events as they occurred. His reporting in turn, persuaded Great Britain to take a neutral stance during the Civil War (Hudson and Stanier 1998, 24)
In the beginning of World War I, the British military did not allow correspondents to accompany the British forces to France. Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for Great Britain, implemented measures that led to the removal of all war correspondents from France. The U.S. government pressured Britain to allow correspondents back into France. President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, and warned that “by not allowing correspondents into the field, Britain was hurting its case with the American public, who were reading despatches from American reporters being assisted by German military authorities” (Laswell 1927, 192). He went on to suggest that the censorship system implemented by Great Britain might be doing more harm than good to the British and French cause (Laswell 1927, 192). President Roosevelt’s letter contributed to Britain’s change in perspective toward the media and perhaps the war; because, the war correspondents covering Germany were well treated and wrote extremely positive stories which began to swing public opinion in the United States where most people supported Britain and France in favor of Germany (Knightly 1975, 47).
During WWI in order to facilitate reporters and communicate information, the United States under the direction of President Wilson, created the Committee of Public Information (CPI) by Executive Order (EO) 2594, on April 13, 1917 with George Creel, editor of The Rocky Mountain News, as the director. The CPI, an independent agency, established to release government news, sustain morale, garner public support for America’s role in the war, and to administer voluntary self-censorship. Other designated members of the committee were the Secretaries of State, War, and the Navy. The committee operated throughout the war and its domestic activities ended with the signing of the 1918 Armistice ending the First World War and its foreign operations ended in June of 1919 was abolished by EO 3154 on August 21, 1919.
In 1915, there were more than 500 reporters in Europe covering the war. Approximately 40 reporters followed the American Expeditionary Force but only after passing a strict accreditation process that excluded certain types of reporters, such as women. One example, identified by the Kansas Historical Society (2008), is Peggy Hull Deuell, the first woman journalist to receive accreditation during WWI. Deuell, initially denied accreditation based on her gender, obtained her accreditation due to her reporting reputation and acquaintance with General Pershing (KSHS 2008). She served a month and a half with an artillery battalion, wearing a military uniform, carrying her own gear, and sleeping on the ground, and reporting until being recalled to Paris (KSHS 2008).
Shortly after the United States entered the war, President Wilson issued a presidential proclamation stating that news organizations publishing news or statements that gave aid or comfort to the enemy made the editor of the news organization liable and he or she could be tried for treason. This presidential proclamation was followed by the Espionage Act of June 1917 that created fines and imprisonment penalties for those who “shall willfully obstruct recruiting.” In October 1917, the Trading with the Enemy Act authorized censorship for any newspaper or magazine containing foreign language articles. The Sedition Act of 1918 amended the Espionage Act and imposed fines and imprisonment on the writers of any publication that printed disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the government, the Constitution, the military or naval forces and their respective uniforms, the flag, and any other language intended to bring these things into contempt, scorn, or disrepute. There was voluntary censorship of the press.
During the interwar years, just prior to World War II, news reports delivered via radio expanded and flourished in the United States. This allowed commentators including Floyd Gibbons, a correspondent for The Chicago Tribune, the ability to deliver his interpretations of world events. This was also the birth of broadcast journalism, which was able to deliver news to an audience hours before they could obtain the opportunity to read about the story in print journalism. Furthermore, broadcast journalism afforded the reporter the ability to describe events over the radio as they occurred and was commonplace during World War II. Correspondents in Europe reported using the new technology of radio and newsreels as well as through old technology of print journalism. As the government created the CPI in World War I, it created the Office of War Information (OWI) for World War II. This office established in 1942, seven months after the U.S entry into WWII was used to promote support for the war effort.
WWI saw a small number of correspondents accompanying the American forces to Europe; however, WWII would see six times the amount of war correspondents accompanying U.S. forces. Approximately 250 war correspondents arrived in Europe with the American military. These correspondents usually wore a military uniform of an officer and had a privileged perspective of operations. One such correspondent was Ernie Pyle, who devoted himself to being on the front lines where he could eat, sleep, walk, and talk with the enlisted soldiers. By war’s end thirty-seven war correspondents had been killed, eighteen of them in the South Pacific (Pulivers 2003, 127) including Ernie Pyle, who chose not to wear an officer’s uniform but that of an enlisted personnel and wanted to be treated as an enlisted soldier.
Overall, military-media relations were very good during WWII. There was a cooperative spirit between the military and the press for both the military and the press. The combat front lines were available to male war correspondents all throughout WWII and military commanders ensured war correspondents had ready access to the soldiers and the front lines. For example, the press on D-day was divided into two groups. The first group would enter the combat zone with the gliders or paratroopers and the second group would enter by sea with the troops in Normandy. The Supreme Headquarters of Allied Expeditionary Force planned for and expected facilities for about 150 war correspondents.
Another example is Operation Torch, the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa. The media facilities for Operation Torch were limited in terms of space available for correspondents which caused the Public Affairs Officer, Colonel Joseph Phillips, to arrange dissemination of information to one reporter. This one reporter would accompany troops on raids and other combat actions and then share the information with other reporters (Pulivers 2003, 129). Eventually, as time went on, two reporters were allowed to accompany the troops on missions. The reporters were allowed to send information on open wire and lines to various news organizations. Additionally, the reporters assigned to General Omar Bradley’s Army Group were issued mobile radio transmitters and other elaborate equipment to help them with moving voice or text (Pulivers 2003, 130). It was common practice to train reporters and prepare them for upcoming military missions.
In the Pacific during WWII, General MacArthur maintained a set of rigid rules over public relations and the press (Pulivers 2003). These stringent rules applied to the Central Command, (CENTCOM) and Pacific Command (PACOM); however, Southern Pacific Command (SOPAC) at the higher headquarters level maintained broader media relations throughout the war (Pulivers 2003). For the war correspondent covering the fight in the Pacific, the Pacific had its own challenges due to the vast distance and remoteness of the areas traveled in the theater. Joseph C. Harsch of the Christian Science Monitor described the military-media relationship in the Pacific during WWII.
The struggle for news by the press in this theater was fierce and disconcerting. And it crept over into other theaters in the Pacific. At first, our relationship with the press liaison colonel, later Brigadier General P.C Diller was deadly, but when we got to know him, the icicles melted right away. The same applied to Charlie Willoughby (BG Charles W) G2 officer under MacArthur, who later in the war provided us with much usable and creditable background material. A great part of this information was off the record. But it surely proved useful to all of us. (Pulivers 2003, 143)
Many war correspondents, including CBS newsman William Dunn, initially found military-media relations in the theater very hard and very cold in terms of the military’s willingness to provide information to the press. However, once relationships and trust were developed information was easier to obtain (Pulivers 2003, 143).
Soon the competition for strategic priority and logistical support that existed between the two theaters of war would be played out in the media. The strong media influence in the Pacific convinced the American public that the U.S. soldiers, marines, and sailors in the Pacific Theater faced incredible hardships in winning victory after victory as the allied forces rolled back the Japanese (Pulivers 2003, 144). The press coverage in the Pacific was such a compelling force that General Dwight D. Eisenhower stated to his staff that:
Unless we do make the public more aware of our difficulties, public opinion is likely to succumb to the wooing of the salesmanship of the Pacific. We must recognize that our theater is in competition with every other theater for equipment and attention. If our activities continue to be submerged in the minds of the public, we automatically soften our push against Hitler and increase that against the Japs, which to my mind means the lengthening, if not the loss of the war. (Pulivers 2003, 145)
In the end, the press had an outstanding relationship with the commands of both theaters of the war because the military commanders realized the media’s importance to the overall war effort.
The Korean War occurred during the “early dawn of mass television” (Cummings 1992, 1), but is a war that was virtually unseen and unknown because the media showed little interest in events that occurred in far off places like Korea. As a result of this lack of interest, the conflict is described as one that did not attract media interest except for the occurrence of pivotal events such as the removal of Douglas McArthur as the supreme allied commander in the Pacific (Stanier 1998, 94). An American correspondent, Hal Boyle, described Korea as the worst reported war of modern times (Royle 1987, 177). Hudson and Stanier provided three reasons for this lack of coverage: (1) the lack of universal television at the time the Korean War, (2) the general perspective that Korea was a little known far off country that had no impact on the Western world, and (3) due to the lack of technological infrastructure in the area, correspondents experienced significant difficulties in sending stories back to their editors (1987, 94).
In the beginning stages of the Vietnam War, the media were supportive of the U.S. government and its decision to enter into a conflict with the North Vietnamese. It was not until the Tet Offensive in 1968 that the media began to suspect that information about Vietnam was being withheld from the American public resulting in cynicism. This cynicism became commonplace in reporters who sought every opportunity possible to prove the official military reports wrong (Baroody 1998).
The Vietnam War is often considered the first reported television war. Images of events happening in Vietnam filled the nightly television news. Images such as GIs setting thatched roofs on fire, the dropping of Napalm and the effects it had on the population such as the footage of a naked, burned, and crying girl running down the village street after a napalm attack (Bates 2000, xiii). These images impacted all elements of the war-the military, the politicians, and the American population.
Until the embed media program of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Vietnam War had been considered the last war in which the American military willingly transported correspondents to the battlefield. Milton Bates, a reporter, described how it was for a reporter in Vietnam. “All you had to do was show up at the flight line at Tan Son Nhut, hail a C130 or a Caribou and climb aboard. Once the reporter arrived; they were taken to the command post, briefed of the situation and directed to the location of combat. All the while, the reporter was left alone to do his or her work. Often times, while in the field, the reporter sent stories over the military communication lines without censorship.” According to Bates, the journalistic style during Vietnam was similar to what one would use in storytelling. He stated, “whether they considered themselves as traditional or new journalists, the men and women who reported Vietnam used story-telling techniques that were familiar to Homer and Herodotus” (Bates 2000, xiii).
Coverage of the Gulf War in 1991, the first major U.S. war since Vietnam, consisted of press pooling and severe censorship. Press pooling was an idea initially created by Retired Army General Winant Sidle; however, he was not in favor of using the press pool in the Gulf War (Smith 1992, xviii). The initial press pool concept was created for military operations in Grenada and later expanded to be the media policy used during the Gulf War. A press pool was an accompanied, selected, small group of reporters and camera personnel that traveled in small groups to the site of combat action. These reporters wrote pool reports that were shared with other reporters (Smith 1992, xviii).
Many analysts believe that the treatment of the press during the Gulf War was in direct correlation to the events that took place the second half of the Vietnam War, which made the military extremely wary of the media. Consequently, the military took steps to control access to the troops and the frontlines through the pooling program as they did during military operations in Grenada or as they did in Panama, where the media was delayed because they were kept sequestered in their hotel rooms for several hours after the start of combat action. During the Gulf War, the pooling of the press magnified tensions between the military and the media because media personnel did not like working in a press pool that allowed a few favored reporters the ability to see the actual combat action (Smith 1992, xviii). There were some reporters who successfully broke away from the pool system. These reporters were labeled “unilateral” and risked being shot at from the participants supporting both sides of the war. Robert Fisk and Chris Hedges, two award winning renowned reporters successfully broke away from the pool, went out on their own and were able to write some of the best stories that came out of the war (Smith 1992).
Relationships are built on understanding and the military-media relationship is no different. Understanding is only achieved when one professional organization understands and respects another professional organization despite the inflammatory and historical differences and sets out to establish a productive working relationship. Lewis A. Coser, author of the chapter “Salvation through communication” highlighted the importance of understanding:
Most discussions on communication processes in recent decades have been premised explicitly or implicitly on the idea that the clearer the message between parties, the less distorted it is by irrelevant ‘noise’ the greater the chances of full understanding between the parties and the higher the probability that they will be able to develop a common perspective and overcome parochial or idiosyncratic interests and outlooks. (Arno 1980, 17)
The actual implementation of military media doctrine during the war on terror brought the military and media together in an effort where both organizations attempted to understand the other.
Initially during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the press was not embedded and reporters were prohibited from getting close to the combat zone. One reporter described the media’s favorite complaint about Afghanistan as being the lack of access to the frontlines (Katovsky and Carlson 2003). However, access policy for the media was about to change. On October 30, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, attended a Pentagon meeting with the Washington Bureau chiefs and stated, “he was onboard with the public relations strategy of embedding media with warriors” (Katovsky and Carlson 2003, xiii). Rumsfeld’s reasoning for support of the idea was “in Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda showed great skill in news management” (Katovsky and Carlson 2003, xiii). Embedded media for the Iraq invasion was viewed as the best way to combat the opposition’s media dominance because it granted access to professional journalists who would report what they saw on the ground. The presence of embedded media was critical because intelligence reports showed a growing Iraqi propaganda campaign (Katovsky and Carlson 2003, xiii). Rumsfeld’s announcement shocked the media and was a welcomed idea especially after the policy of limited access that initially characterized the War in Afghanistan (Katovsky and Carlson 2003).
When the Iraq War began in March of 2003, more than 600 reporters accompanied the troops. The embedded system was an “implementation of an innovative means of wartime coverage” (Rand 2003, xiii). This system allowed the media to broadcast combat events live to the American public. According to Katovsky and Carlson (2003), the question for the media at this time was to embed or not to embed. In the end, many of the larger corporations decided to send embeds but also maintained accredited unilateral reporters in Iraq as method to present the whole perspective on the events occurring in Iraq. The reporters that embedded received a certain amount of safety and for those who did not embed assumed a greater amount of risk when covering the events on the battlefield. Sadly, several unilateral reporters who ventured too close to the combat action were killed. For all practical purposes, the literature indicates that the military benefited from having reporters embedded with the units and were accepting of the program. However, members of the media showed distaste toward the embedded media process. Why would the media be against the embedding process?
Criticism of Embedded Media
For the most part, the criticisms against the embedded media system reside in the realm of the media itself. The embedded program from the military’s perspective was well-received and viewed as something that should be sustained for future combat operations. Historian Raymond Williams stated the following in regards to the Gulf War:
Imagine a war in which the daily horror of modern warfare is kept from the screen, in which the television anchor people function as patriots and guardians of military secretes, cheerlead for presidential and pentagon policy, focus on the courage and professionalism of our boys in action or the infallible accuracy of our high tech weapons, in which the enemy is demonized as cruel and fanatical, in which dissent from the war is represented as miniscule or unpatriotic or both, and in which the war seems mysteriously to be part of some widely shared community feeling, deeply colored by images of good and evil: which war was that? It was the most recent Gulf War, to be sure but it was also the Vietnam War from 1961 through the Tet Offensive in 1968. And it was the Korean War even if it occurred before the era of mass television. (Cummings 1992, 83)
This paragraph about the Gulf War depicts some of the same types of negative perceptions that have been applied toward the embedded media concept, especially the remarks about cheerleading for the government and the demonization of the opposing forces. Katovsky and Carlson, described the media’s participation in the embed process as the Fourth estate becoming an “honorary member of the cobbled Coalition” (2003, xiv).
Embedded reporters were required to sign media ground rules which identified certain items that they were not allowed to publish due to operation security; such as, items identifying exact troop strength and unit locations. Although these rules were not censoring tools but requirements needed to ensure the safety of combat forces they did cause discord among media members (Katovsky and Carlson 2003; Rand 2003). However, most embedded reporters interviewed claimed that despite the ground rules “they were not really restrained but rather assisted in their work by the Pentagon press flacks” (Schechter 2003, 19). Two of the biggest complaints against the embedded reporter was that he/she came to identify with the soldiers and, as a result lost, objectivity and his or her focus of the battlefield was very narrow. Schechter, in his book Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deceptions: How the Media Failed to Cover the War in Iraq, stated that “many embeds acknowledged that they came to identify with those they were with” (2003, 19). Another complaint was that embedded media was viewed as the military’s manipulation of the press because the perspectives provided were solely from the military’s point of view without consideration for the larger perspective.
Yet, another frustration with embedded process as identified in the book Eyewitness to War (2006) edited by Jennifer Lindsey and Kendall Gott of the Combat Studies Institute, was that the Army and the Marines appeared to have different rules as to what the reporter could and could not report. In an April 3, 2006 interview with Matt Matthews of the CSI institute, Jane Arraf, a CNN reporter embedded during the Iraq war with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment identified that on several occasions she had been cleared to report a story only to have it stopped by the Marines. In her interview she stated, “I faced several times, where I’d been cleared to report information and use video which was perfectly fine with the Army. But when we got to the state where it was to be transmitted--and that was under the military censorship run by the Marines--the Marines had a problem with it, even though we made clear to them that it was fine with the unit we were embedded in” (2006, 305). Criticism of the program exists however, will these criticisms impact future military embed programs.
Current Media Credentialing Process in Iraq
Each location and conflict has different embedded media processes. For example, in Afghanistan, the process is different than in Iraq because it is a NATO operation that can be operated by different countries. Furthermore, although many countries have implemented embedded media programs similar to the U.S embedded program differences in the process do exist. The following credentialing process is specific to Iraq and is an evolving process. Reporters seeking credentials must present a valid passport, company identification, and a letter written on company letterhead from the reporters’ news organization to the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC). If a reporter is a local Iraqi he/she must present a gencia card. Upon presenting the required documentation, reporters then go through biometric screening. This screening encompasses an iris scan, fingerprinting, taking photos of the face from different angles, and a background check. The bio screening takes about twenty minutes to complete; however, the background check takes up to three days. If the background check is clean, the reporter is issued a CPIC badge. The badge is valid for six months and the screening information is good for year. Renewal badges will be issued immediately if the biometric information has not expired.
Reporters seeking to embed with a unit must contact the CPIC and provide the center with their embed packet. The embed packet must contain an embed media application, a credential letter and a completed copy of the MNF-I media ground rules and hold harmless agreement plus three examples of published work. All reporters entering Iraq are required to obtain a visa from the Iraqi government. Once the documents are submitted they will be reviewed by the Multi-National Forces-Iraq
(MNF-I) Embed Coordination Team, who in turn will notify the reporter when his/her embed request has been approved or denied. If the request has been approved, the reporter may travel to Iraq. There are two ways that reporters may fly to Iraq. The first way is to fly to Amman Jordan and take a military flight to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) or fly commercially from Amman. If reporters fly commercially from Amman, they arrive at the civilian part of the airport and will have to arrange for their security escort to the military side of the airport. The military flight is the preferred method but only occurs two days a week and space is limited. The second way into Iraq is from Kuwait. Reporters fly into Kuwait International Airport and are taken to Ali Al-Salem, where they will be issued an invitational travel order to fly on military aircraft into Baghdad. Reporters that do travel to Iraq but do not intend to embed are not allowed to use military air or ground transportation assets and may be restricted from accessing coalition facilities and personnel. These reporters usually fly directly into the Baghdad International Airport. The embed process in Iraq has matured with more reporters preferring to operate as unilaterals as the country has become more stable and safe environment for unilateral journalists.
Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without out it nothing can succeed.
― Abraham Lincoln
Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.
The purpose of this paper is to identify the perspectives of military personnel and reporters as to their view of the roles of the embedded and unilateral reporters on the battlefield during wartime and will answer the questions how do the media envision the roles of unilateral and embedded reporter during wartime, as well as, how does the military view the roles of unilateral and embedded reporters during wartime? This paper will employ the qualitative research method known as in-depth interviewing as its primary analysis method. In-depth interviewing is a technique used to obtain information from expert individuals on a specific topic. According to Milena, a faculty member at Bucharest University, in-depth interviewing is a technique designed to “elicit a vivid picture of the participant’s perspective” (n.d., 1279). In this method, the interviewer assumes a learning posture in which he/she seeks to learn as much as possible from the interviewee.
In-depth interviewing is useful when the researcher “wants detailed information about the interviewee’s thoughts and behaviors or wants to explore new issues in-depth” (Boyce and Neal 2006). There are many benefits to using in-depth interviewing including: (1) the interviewee “talks about his/her personal feelings, opinions and experiences;” (2) the interviewer gains in-sight as to how the interviewees interpret the order of the world; (3) the interviewee is more confident and relaxed when sharing more in-depth information; (4) the approach is flexible; (5) the method allows person-to-person contact; (6) the method affords the interviewee as much time as necessary to share on a topic; and (7) the interviewer has the ability to conduct an in-depth analysis of the information received (Milena, Dainora, and Alin n.d, 1279; In-depth n.d.).
Despite the advantages to in-depth interviewing, the method is not without its limitations. The information obtained from the interviewee may be biased, meaning that each person views events from his or her own perspective. If the interviewer is not trained, the interviewee may not provide the information required for an adequate analysis. Untrained interviewers may ask too narrow of a question which leads the interviewee into a limited focus. Furthermore, when the data is analyzed, generalizations about the findings cannot be made because the sample size is too small and random sampling methods have not been used.
The process for conducting in-depth interviews is similar to the processes used for conducting other research in that it seeks out information. The researcher must
(1) identify the stake holders and the information required, (2) develop the interview instruments, (3) training of data collectors, (4) analyze the data, and (5) disseminate the findings, which will occur with the final completed draft (Boyce and Neal 2006).
In order to identify potential interview candidates, the author employed the snowball sampling method. Snowball sampling is a purposive, nonprobability sampling, which means that the interviewees were selected in a non-random manner. Due to the use of this non-random selection process, a sampling error cannot and will not be calculated (Sampling Methods 2008). Snowball sampling is a useful approach that allows the interviewer the ability to identify information-rich informants (Snowball Sampling 2008). In snowball sampling, the researcher contacts individuals and requests the opportunity to interview them. At the end of the interview, the researcher will ask the person recently interviewed for recommendations of other potential interview candidates (Snowball Sampling 2008; Nonprobability Sampling 2008). The initial interviewee was identified by asking a media guest speaker to the Army’s Command and General Staff College if he would be willing to be interviewed. During this initial interview the reporter was asked to provide names of other reporters who may be interested in participating in an oral interview. Other interviewees were identified through online research and written articles.
Information was obtained from the experts interviewed through the employment of open ended questions. The data collected was analyzed using grounded theory where the researcher re-reads or re-listens to the transcripts and makes notes on the items that indicate a common theme. Prior to recording the interviews, all interviewees were briefed on that the interview was strictly voluntary, that they could end the interview at any time, were asked to grant permission to be interviewed and gave authorization for the interview to be recorded. This process was orally completed and is recorded digitally. The recording program used to record the interviews was the program Pamela for Skype. Pamela is a call management program used in conjunction with Skype, a voice of Internet Protocol calling system. This program allows the researcher to record and store for later review all calls made through Skype. In order to ensure validity, the results of the analysis will be shared with the interviewees for comments approval and clarification.
Embedded and independent reporters, public affair officers, and other military officers were interviewed for this paper. These interviews provided information that lends to the understanding of the media’s perspective toward the military and the military’s current wartime media policy. The questions used throughout the interviews started with structured questions turned to semi structured questions based on the reporter’s and public affairs officer’s responses, and experiences.
In order to determine the military’s non public affairs officer’s perspective toward embedded and independent reporters, the author conducted in-depth interviews with military officers who volunteered to participate in the interview process. These military interviews are necessary in order to fully understand the military’s perspective of the roles of the embedded and unilateral reporters on the battlefield. In order to glean a glimpse of the military’s perspective of embedded and independent media the following interview questions were asked: (1) What is your contact/experience with embedded reporters; (2) What do you think of embedded reporters and the stories produced by them; (3) Should the military continue the embedded reporter program; (4) How can the program if kept, be improved; (5) What are the drawbacks and/or benefits for the use of embedded media; (6) During combat operations have you encountered independent (not embedded) reporters on the battlefield; (7) What do you think of independent reporters on the battlefield; (8) Should the U.S. military be considerate of the independent reporter on the battlefield (9)How can the military improve its relationship with independent reporters; (10) Do you have a preference as to the type of reporter that you would like to work with (why); and (11) What is your overall view/perspective/ or impression of the media (why)? The PAO’s and reporters were asked an initial common question: What is your perspective of embedded media? All other questions asked during the interview were based off of the initial responses to the common question. The responses for each group were analyzed separately. Once the commonalities of each group were identified, they were compared to each other in order to identify common themes among the groups interviewed. The analysis of the data is provided in chapter 4.
The information used in this research was limited to unclassified open source information found in the United States Army Combined Arms Research Library at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S Government generated data, civilian institutions, the World Wide Web, open source databases, in-depth interviews and the author’s experiences and education in the subject matter. The author of this paper further realizes the limitations of this paper in regards to the validity and representation of the military’s and media’s perspectives. However, in order to ensure validity those interviewed were able to read the paper in order to ensure that the author’s interpretation of the interviewees’ responses were accurate in reflecting the interviewees’ perspective. This research is based on the assumption that although embedded media improved the military-media relationship there are still elements in the relationship that need to be improved especially in regards to the unilateral reporter during wartime. The intended purpose of this paper was not to quantify the answers statistically but to introduce a topic that requires further study and analysis.
The identity of news and conflict is not a problem to be solved, but a fact to be recognized so that the operations of the news media can be understood better. It is essential also to look at the media themselves as important actors in conflict situations at both the national and international levels.
― George Simmel
This phenomenon of the identification of the war correspondent with the military with whom they find themselves has been a notable factor of war reporting throughout-notably in the Gulf and Falkland Island conflicts. Where should a war correspondent’s loyalty lie? To his editor, to his country, or to the soldiers with whom they are living? It is a serious dilemma.
― Philip Knightly, The First Casualty of War
Does the military have a perspective toward embedded and independent media? If so, what is the military’s perspective? Judith Baroody stated that the military viewed the media as “force multipliers” that build morale in the civilian populace at home while confusing the enemy abroad. This idea is further supported by the statement from New York Times, correspondent, Homer Bigart, who wrote “[reporters covering the war] seem to be regarded by the American mission as tools of our foreign policy” (Knightly 1975, 329) and the many complaints by journalists who complained that they were a tool for the government during wartime. Do these comments reflect the general mindset of the military?
Military Officer Information Analysis
Interviewees included one member of the Air Force, a Marine, a Sailor, two international students attending the Command and General Staff College, and six Soldiers. Ten interviewees were men, one was a woman. Of the eleven interviewed three had experience working with embedded reporters. In analyzing the answers from the military officer respondents, the following summations were noted. On the whole, those interviewed responded that the use of embedded reporters was a good or excellent idea and that embedded reporters were necessary to tell the military’s story, fulfill the Army’s need to inform the public, and gain the public’s confidence.
The military’s general perspective on the embedded media program was overwhelmingly positive. Most identified that the program was useful to informing the public in ways that the military could not do themselves. Furthermore, respondents identified that the embedded media improved the military-media relationship by breaking the tension that existed prior to the embed program. Negative comments were not provided; however, comments with reservations were provided. The biggest reservation toward the embedded program identified by those interviewed revealed as skepticism toward the media’s motivation and agenda.
Despite the success of the embedded media program, the military interviewees identified that there was room for improvement, especially in the area of providing training for the embedded reporter so that they have a basic understanding of military operations. Additionally, respondents acknowledged that unilateral reporters should be allowed access to the battlefield; however, the majority of the respondents had reservations toward their presence on the battlefield due to the perceived risks for the reporter, to the mission and the soldiers. Furthermore, there was a general perception among the officers that unilateral reporters were untrustworthy and only out for sensational stories.
In summary, the drawbacks of using embedded media centered around the military’s concerns that the media would misrepresent information, would spin stories to highlight their own perspectives, and the media’s true motivation for writing stories was suspect. The benefits of the program centered on telling the military’s story, in some cases, better than the military itself. Many embedded stories published told the stories of the people serving at the tactical level. Without embedded reporters, these stories would not have been told the military does not possess the assets to tell such stories. Furthermore, the embedded media allowed for the military to build a rapport and a stronger relationship built on trust and allowed for the creation of a positive public opinion toward those serving in the military.
The majority of those interviewed never saw a unilateral reporter on the battlefield and the few who did encounter one thought nothing of it. However, even though most respondents had not encountered this type of reporter, they expressed concerns about their presence on the battlefield which revealed distrust for the media who choose not to embed. The distrust is based on the stereotype that unilateral reporters are anti-military seeking sensational stories for their own gain. The respondents did acknowledge that unilateral reporters do play a role in presenting a larger perspective of military operations but their presence on the battlefield was viewed with caution due to the potential risk to the soldiers, the mission, and the reporter themselves.
The idea of providing consideration to the unilateral reporters on the battlefield was met with reservation by the interviewees. The responses ranged from positive to concern about their presence. The main reservation toward the presence of unilateral reporters on the battlefield was the lack of a standing relationship with the military which impacted the military’s ability to fully trust them. On the positive side of the coin, some respondents encouraged the use of unilaterals as long as they are registered through some type of Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) for personal safety purposes. Knowing what reporters are on the battlefield and where they might potentially be will allow the military command to inform the tactical units of a reporter’s presence in the area of operations which could significantly reduce incidences like the Palestine hotel.
Interviewees identified ways to improve the military’s relationship with the independent reporter. The suggestions included the establishment of a bill of rights that will assist unilateral reporters in knowing what the military will and will not allow on the battlefield, establish rules of engagement for sharing the battle space with unilateral reporters in order to prevent issues, and providing them with pre-training that will help them remain safe on the battlefield. The most remarkable recommendations for improving relations with unilateral reporters was to allow them access and to engage with them as early as possible during an operation.
The preferred type of reporter on the battlefield was not distinguished by the titles of embedded and unilateral but by the reporters’ actions. The preferred reporter was one who could be fair and balanced in his/her reporting, was willing to tell the Military’s side of the story, was one who would provide interviewees with a list of questions prior to the interview, was willing to do human interest type stories, and one willing to show the reality of the situation whether it be good, bad, or neutral. Although qualities were applied rather than a title, one response highlighted a critical perception that the military holds toward the embedded reporter which in the long-term impacts its ability to fully accept the unilateral reporter on the battlefield. This response identified that the embedded reporter is perceived as being interested in building relationships and contributing above and bed his or her desire to get a lead and boost his or her own image. This statement can also be applied to unilateral reporters if the military is open to building a relationship with them.
The overall view and perspective of the interviewees about the media and their role was mixed. The answers indicated a positive view of the media with one recipient referencing a well known quote by Thomas Jefferson:"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.” Other answers indicated that some in the military still possess skeptical views of the media. Overall, the responses revealed a thawing in the military’s perspective toward the media but mainly toward those who served as embedded reporters. However, despite the positive advances in the relationship, distrust toward the media by the military is still present due to the perception that the media is out to make a profit, to make a name, to write sensational stories, and promote an agenda.
Public Affairs Officers Information Analysis
Now that the non-public affairs military’s officer perspective is known it is time to examine the perceptions of embedded and unilateral reporters and their role on the battlefield through the eyes of trained military public affairs professionals. The author conducted three in-depth interviews with the following personnel: CPT David Eastburn, former battery commander in 2nd BN 17th Artillery who worked with embedded media, LTC Michael Donnelly, former MND-North public affairs officer and COL Wayne Shanks, USARPAC Public Affairs Officer (PAO). What perspectives do PAOs hold toward the media? The following information comes from the in-depth interviews conducted with public affairs officers.
The embedded program was positively praised by each public affairs officer interviewed. The program was described as being a “great concept” (Shanks 2009), a program that removed several layers and filters and provided “the reporter with direct access to unfettered, untailored, raw, ground-truth actions and facts” (Donnelly 2009). Moreover, the program was identified as the best way, from a public affairs perspective, to expose a journalist to the military and allow the journalist to tell the Army’s story (Shanks 2009). Donnelly (2009) described the program as bridging the gap between the military and the media; the embedded program says to the media “Come into our house and stay awhile.” Donnelly (2009) further elaborated on the importance of keeping the embedded program. He stated, “Transparency within the Armed Forces is the primary reason to keep the program. The fear of breathing life into the old stereotypical view of the US Army in Vietnam is enough to quell any thought of killing the program.”
PAOs are the media’s facilitators and bridge to the military. As the MND-North’s PAO, Donnelly embraced the media and lived by his motto “The more the media the better” (Donnelly 2009). And embrace the media he did. He regularly took trips to the CPIC in Kuwait to recruit as many reporters as possible to take back with him to his headquarters in the Northern Iraq (Donnelly 2009). He indiscriminately took any reporter who wanted and was willing to go with him whether they were employed by a large media conglomerate or a small town newspaper, or wrote for a professional media blog. Donnelly (2009) did everything possible to facilitate the embedded reporters in his area of responsibility. Likewise, CPT Eastburn’s battery was the only one in his battalion entrusted to host the influx of 10 to 12 embedded reporters in Iraq during the trial of Saddam Hussein and the Surge of 2007. Based on his background and degree in journalism, the battalion commander assigned all embedded reporters to Eastburn’s battery.
Negative experiences with embedded reporters were the exception rather than the norm. CPT Eastburn (2009) chose to refer to his negative experience with an embedded reporter not as a “bad” experience but as a “learning” experience. His battery received a reporter, who appeared to have had an agenda as to the type of information he wanted. This reporter asked a lieutenant in Eastburn’s battery a question, and he answered in a very negative way, not realizing that his comments were being written down until they appeared in the reporter’s story the next day. As a result, Eastburn experienced an unpleasant discussion with his battalion commander over the incident.
Training, training, training and more training is the preferred option for LTC Donnelly. The influence of the media is powerful; therefore, Donnelly (2009) views the media as one of the commander’s tickets to success on the battlefield. Perception domestically and internationally is everything. As such, soldiers, officers, noncommissioned officers, and enlisted personnel need to be better trained and equipped in media relations and the public affairs branch needs to play a role in revamping the current media training curriculum (Donnelly 2009). Eastburn (2009) also identified weaknesses in the current media training. Prior to deployment, his battery received a check the media education block class in the form of a twenty minute slide deck on what to do if questioned by a reporter. He does not feel that this training was sufficient enough to fully prepare soldiers for encountering the media on the battlefield; and therefore, he used his background and education in journalism to mentor his soldiers on how to effectively engage with the media. Likewise, Shanks (2009) also believes that the military’s media education program needs to change. However, he noted that the Army’s mindset at the senior level still considers the media negatively. This comment is critical to understanding the media’s perspective toward the military because it supports what they have identified as an area that needs improvement.
Initially, embedded reporters did impact the way soldiers conducted business. However as time passed and relationships formed, the Soldiers adapted to having media representatives underfoot especially after realizing that most of the reporters looked for a positive story (Eastburn 2009; Donnelly 2009; Shanks). The battle rhythm also facilitated the acceptance of media personnel because with the increased operation tempo (optempo) brought tiredness to the soldiers who in turn did not care if the media were around (Eastburn 2009). It is important to note that this initial awkwardness did not impact the mission in any way.
The embedded program despite being well received is not without issues and has room for growth (Donnelly 2009), especially at the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) level and below because the tendency among leaders at this level is to view the media as distracters; and therefore, they do not make the time to fully meet the reporter needs. Additionally Shanks and Donnelly (2009) identified that the program had issues with transportation for the reporter and his/her equipment which is logistically challenging for some units. Furthermore, the embedded process can be administratively a pain for units. Donnelly (2009) identified that sometimes the media homesteaded at the headquarters in Baghdad rather than being pushed out to the units at the Forward Operating Bases (FOBS) or Contingency Operations Bases (COBs). And occasionally, there would be a reporter who embedded for a specific agenda. However, Donnelly (2009) stated that the use of embedded media is an asymmetrical investment and its return cannot be measured because when the day is done, the military’s story has been told to millions of people. Likewise, Shanks (2009) stated that the benefits of embedded media far outweigh the risks involved
Reporters on the battlefield are the conduit for providing the public with information that it needs and should know; and as such their perspective on the roles of the embedded and unilateral reporter during wartime is valuable for understanding how to further improve military-media relations. At least in a manner, that allows media to fulfill their professional duty and responsibilities to the public in regards to providing the whole perspective by presenting both sides of the conflict. Therefore, several in-depth interviews with media personnel were conducted. The analysis of these interviews identified perspective similarities in the following areas: (1) the use of embedded reporters; (2) the value of embedded reporting; (3) the draw backs of embedded reporting; (4) how to improve the embedded process; (5) the role of the unilateral on the battlefield; (6) why reporters chose not to embed; (7) challenges of the unilateral; and (8) how to improve the military’s relationship with the unilateral. Eight reporters were interviewed. Of the eight, four had embedded experience and four were unilaterals and three of the eight had experience as both and embed and a unilateral on the battlefield.
Overall, the reporters, embedded and unilateral, interviewed positively acknowledged the role of the embedded reporter on the battlefield although a few expressed reservations which will be explored later in the analysis. The role of the embedded reporter is to report what they see or hear at the level or unit they to which he/she is embedded (Glick 2009; WSJ 2009). As such, the embedded reporter was seen as an invaluable source of information “over and above, if not apart from the US military” (Miklaszewski 2009) that provided an invaluable and different perspective (Yon 2009) and allowed the formulation of narrative stories with depth and texture (WSJ 2009) to stories written about the military, especially in regards to military’s actions in nation building and tribal engagement. These qualities make a significant impact to the overall general knowledge of events particularly when the information issued by the military spokesperson is filtered or sanitized as was the case for Miklaszewski (2009) as the MSNBC Pentagon correspondent or the reporters independent or embedded who found themselves met by a military wall of silence as was the case for Peter Wilson (2009), at the Australian Defense Force Information Center in Qatar.
Bed any doubt, the reporters viewed the embedded media as beneficial to the military because it shared the military’s side of the story. The stories produced by embeds, specifically the human interest stories on the men and women who serve in the military, allowed the audience who possessed no military ties, the ability to connect with the soldiers on the ground (Glick 2009; Yianopoulos 2009). Their reporting also benefitted the military by acting as a counterbalance to the state run propaganda machine as was experienced in Iraq. Caroline Glick (2009), a reporter embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division (ID), related that when the 3rd ID secured the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), the Iraqi message was that the Americans had not secured the airport. Glick called her editor from her position at the airport and was asked where she was. She replied the Baghdad International Airport (Glick 2009). This information countered the Iraqi message that denied the seizure of the Baghdad International Airport.
The impact, as identified by most reporters, of embedded reporting on the military-media relationship was significant. According to Fred Francis (2009), the process allowed a relationship to be formed. Likewise, Miklaszewski (2009) acknowledged that the embedded reporters gained a long term trust and relationship with the military. Similarly, Karen Yianopoulos (2009) shared that the embedded media helped build a measure of trust in the media. A symbol of the bond of trust between an embedded reporter and the military are the actions of an embedded NBC pool reporter as told by Miklaszewski (2009). During the second battle for Fallujah, an embedded reporter entered a mosque to film events as they occurred on the inside. This reporter witnessed and recorded a soldier shooting an unarmed and injured Iraqi in the head. Instead of concealing the footage or broadcasting immediately across the airwaves, he showed the footage to the commander and leaders of the soldier’s unit. The leaders of this unit were thrilled that the reporter chose to let them take the appropriate actions to correct the situation prior to the airing the story. In the end, the leaders expressed sincere gratitude to the reporter, removed the unit from the battle, and trust was built between the unit, the leaders and the embedded reporter.
The overall advantage of embedded reporting that most reporters shared was that the reporting brought information to the public. Yianopoulos conveyed that embedded media was great for all parties, the military, the media, and especially the people who view the news. She further indentified that during the Gulf War there was a lack of information due to the press pool policy that left the world, and especially the Israelis, wondering what was happening this did not happen during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Similarly Miklaszewski (2009) acknowledged that the embedded media brought the battlefield much closer to home for the American public. Francis (2009) acknowledge that embedded media had some value, “It is a wonderful thing for the American military and I submit to you, begrudgingly, I submit to you that it is a good thing for the American people because they get a more honest look of what is happening on the ground, but they do not get a total look.” Michael Yon (2009), a freelance reporter with embedded experience provided a different and valuable perspective and the reporter from WSJ (2003) stated that embedding offered reporters a way to safe way to access the countryside of hostile countries that would otherwise be inaccessible, for safety reasons, to unilateral reporters.
Although the use of embedded reporters has many positive aspects, it is not without disadvantages. One such disadvantage is that embedded media only presents a small perspective of the larger picture; and therefore, should not be considered as the only authorized means of reporting allowed on the battlefield (Francis 2009; McPhedran 2009; Wilson 2009; Yon 2009; WSJ 2009). Francis (2009) identified that although the American public gets a view of the war it is not the full view of events happening on the ground. Similarly, Ian McPhedran (2009) stated, “it is an important aspect of covering a conflict but it is not the only one. I think it is part of the overall picture, a valuable but small part…it provides a narrow focus of the picture, an important part, but should not be seen as the be all and end all.” Likewise Peter Wilson (2009) stated in regards to embedded media, “Embedded media could be a useful technique and a positive tool if part of a complete tool box.”
Other disadvantages identified were the limitations on movement and the lack of ability to speak with locals on the ground (Wilson 2009), the expense to equip the embedded reporter as well as the cost of travel to the meet up location, and the inability of the military to assist a media representative until they are fully accredited, despite being invited to embed with military forces, this ability to assist is crucial for reporters that may not be well received into the country of operations; for instance, reporters from Israel. Additionally noted, was a concern that readers will begin to view the reporter’s work as myopic and skewed (Yon 2009) and the lack of accessibility when the action is happening; the embedded reporter is relegated to view the events when the military deems it safe for them to do so, usually when the action is over (Francis 2009). Also, the process has an inherent power imbalance built into it (WSJ 2009) especially in regards to the embedded and PAO relationship. Despite these drawbacks the reporters found the process better than the past pool policy of the Gulf War (Francis 2009; Yianopoulus 2009; Miklaszewski 2009). The embedded process, as identified by the international and U.S. journalists, is better when the system is run by the U.S. military and the reporters are embedded U.S. units because the U.S. is more open and accommodating to the needs of reporters the embedded processes of the United Kingdom or Australia (Wilson 2009; McPhedran 2009, Yon 2009; WSJ 2009). However, despite the U.S. being more open, the Canadians were identified as having the best embedded media program (WSJ 2009).
In summary, the embedded reporter is viewed as having a valuable role to the battlefield but it is not the only type of reporter that should be granted access to the battlefield. Embedded media brought a sense of trust and improved the military media relationship as well as providing necessary information to the public. However, at the end of the day, despite the advantages and positives produced by the program there is room for improvement, specifically in regards to allowing access to other media reporters such as unilaterals because without unilateral reporting the picture of the battlefield contains only a small perspective on the events occurring in the combat zone. Reporting from both types of reporters enhance each other (Francis 2009).
The role of the unilateral reporter during wartime is critical to presenting the whole picture; however, security for the unilateral is a critical issue (McPhedran 2009; Glick 2009). The unilateral like the embedded reporter, covers as objectively as possible what he/she sees, hears, experiences at his/her location; however, they also, like the embed, can provide only a small portion of the overall “on the ground” understanding.
The primary reasons why reporters choose to not embed with the military was the lack of independence and freedom of movement and bad experiences with PAOs (Francis 2009; Yon 2009; WSJ 2009). For Wilson (2009), a reporter who turned down two embedded opportunities for the 2003 Iraqi invasion, possessing the freedom to be independent, to have an interpreter and the freedom to move around were very important because he wanted to learn the Iraqis thoughts and perspectives on the invasion of their country and the fall of Saddam. Furthermore, Wilson (2009) noted that restricting the media is not good from the public’s and media’s perspective. Particularly since the media’s interests are based on what the public’s interests are, the public needs media that are independent and not controlled by the military. When the media are restricted, the public is restricted (Wilson 2009). Many times senior PAOs act in a manner that places unnecessary restrictions or outright denies access to reporters from accessing certain units, especially if they are viewed negatively by the PAO, other PAOs or the military (Yon 2009; WSJ 2009).
The biggest challenge to the unilateral reporter on the battlefield is safety and security. There are examples of events that occurred during the invasion of Iraq that killed many unilateral reporters. The following are examples given to emphasize the dangers faced my unilaterals, the tank attack on the Palestine hotel in Baghdad and the killing of two photojournalists, whose camera bags were allegedly mistaken as being rocket launchers (Wilson 2009; McPhedran 2009). McPhedran (2009) conveyed that when he was out on the streets of Baghdad he was very nervous because the some of American troops were trigger happy. Another challenge that unilaterals face on the battlefield is the perception that they are anti-military which causes their intentions to be automatically suspect when they try to gain access to the military. As a result access is not granted unless all credentials are perfect; therefore, this inability to gain access limits the presentation of a complete perspective of the conflict (Wilson 2009; McPhedran 2009; WSJ 2009; Yon 2009).
When encountering unilateral reporters on the battlefield, the military needs to view them as non combatants as identified in the Geneva Conventions. Therefore, they should not be deliberately targeted unless they operate, bed any doubt, as combatants (Glick 2009). Furthermore, the military, as much as possible, should protect the unilaterals and expose them, as much as possible, to the military’s operations and troops (Glick 2009; Wilson 2009; WSJ 2009).
The Reporters View of the Public Affairs Officer
Overall the PAOs maintained a positive professional view of the media. Donnelly’s (2009) statement summarizes the positivity of thought held by the PAOs interviewed. He stated:
I view the media very positively and as colleagues in the business. We survive on each other’s expertise, and nurture a symbiotic relationship. Without journalists, and or public affairs officers there would be no news reported. We can’t have one without the other in some form, shape, or capacity. Media get a bad rap by most accounts, particularly in the military, where there is a historical friction that I think will always persist. PAOs must bridge that gap or lessen the friction because the US Army needs the media to ‘tell its’ story’ so we have to have PAOs to help facilitate the military’s interaction with the media. War in general is a top of mind subject that audiences around the globe view with interest and the media along with the PAO facilitate this interest.
However despite this positive view, the PAO, the military’s liaison with the media, is viewed with mixed feelings by the media. Overall, the media viewed them as professionals but the impression of PAOs and their role was relatively negative and skeptical, especially toward Army PAOs. They are seen as obstructers to the media in that they provide “a party line” and are viewed as untrustworthy, especially those in the rank of colonel and above (2009) Another notable reporter noted, that many PAO’s, particularly those in the army and less so those in the Marines, misinterpret the intent of the embed program as a ‘good news only’ program. Therefore, they will choose to not embed a reporter or embed them with a sustainment type unit that never leaves the FOB and thereby denying reporters access to kinetic operations (WSJ 2009). Furthermore, PAOs are viewed as wielding their power to choose to accept or not accept an embed, in a manner that unduly shapes coverage or limits access simply because they do not like a reporter or the reporter’s company (WSJ 2009).
Also, PAOs are viewed as pushing “non-news” stories, such as building a school. According to Francis (2009), building a school is not considered a news story because the media expects the military to help build schools and that this type of story would be considered fluff. Adding to this, Yon (2009) observed that PAOs tended to act as if their story is like a fruit that no one else has but really wants. Yianopoulos (2009) further identified that the packaging of the story is critical to selling it to the media. She stated that building a school is not a very newsworthy event; however, if it were packaged as “building a girls school” then it would be considered unique news by the media. Francis (2009) stated that the real professional ones understand that “bad news is big news, good news is no news, and no news is bad news.” The PAOs praised, were those who acted as honest brokers and were helpful, open-minded, big picture thinking PAOs, who recognized that bad news stories as being a part of life that happen in conjunction with the good aspects of life (Francis 2009; Glick 2009, WSJ 2009). Miklaszewski (2009) further noted, that the larger the public affairs organization the more adversarial the public affairs officers become toward the media.
Recommendations Provided by the Military and the Media
The following recommendations were identified by military and media professionals and are valuable to maintaining and improving military-media relations. There is no better way to solve issues or improve relations than obtaining recommendations and ideas from those who have lived the “on the ground” experiences.
Overall, the embedded process should be made affordable for all media organizations, especially the smaller media organizations. This can be done by allowing them to use military MAC flights into the area of operations vice civilian transport (Glick 2009; McPhedran 2009; Wilson 2009). Donnelly’s (2009) recommendation supports the affordable idea put forth by the media. He stated,
Internally, the US Army and the Command’s need to dedicate more resources to the media embed program--mainly dedicated aircraft and a command emphasis on sub units supporting journalists in their area in order to get them the story. Keep it as “open door” as possible and give the reporters what they need to file their story--it’s a strategic investment that takes little upfront investment by the command.
This assistance with making the process affordable is critical for many news organizations do not have the financial reserve to send embedded reporters into the AOR.
Other recommendations were to allow the embedded reporter on the battle lines during a fight rather than after a fight (Francis 2009). Ensure that all embedded reporters receive some type of comprehensive preparation training that includes, the military’s objectives, discipline process, where to go and not go, what is dangerous or not dangerous, and what is healthy or unhealthy in a combat environment prior to embedding(McPhedran 2009; Glick 2009). This is key to those reporters who lack in military background or experiences. Furthermore, the embedded process should not be viewed as a way to control the media or as the only way of covering a military conflict; allow for more independence (Wilson 2009; Francis 2009; Miklaszewski 2009; McPhedran 2009; WSJ 2009; Yon 2009). Additionally, it was recommended that the military examine how it assigns embedding reporters military units because there were incidences when anti-military reporters, bent on propagating an antimilitary agenda, were given prime embed assignments with units conducting frontline combat operations. This provision of a prime embed opportunity did nothing to change the reporter’s agenda or perspective but hurt the military by providing this reporter an opportunity to build credibility with his audience. The military should not feel obligated to accommodate such reporters with prime embed units; send them to a supporting units instead (Glick 2009). Likewise, there were incidences when reporters were refused embed positions because a PAO had taken a dislike to the reporter or the reporters parent organization. A better way to measure the value of a reporter is by assessing the reporter’s accuracy on presenting a story instead the PAO’s personal judgment, dislike for and the perception that the reporter will write ‘good news’ only story (WSJ 2009).
Overall, the best way to improve relations with unilateral reporters is to not intentionally target or inflict injury to them (Wilson 2009) but protect them when possible (McPhedran, Glick) and treat them with respect (Wilson 2009; McPhedran 2009; WSJ 2009; Yon 2009) and allow them to do their job. Understand their role in battlefield reporting and don’t harass them doing their job, instead when and if possible offer help or access (McPhedran 2009; Wilson). Access is critical to improving the military’s relationship with the unilateral reporters. McPhedran (2009) stated that the most valuable thing commanders could do to build relationships with the unilateral reporters is to provide them access to briefings and transport (McPhedran 2009). Access was further emphasized by WSJ (2009) because reporters want to write an end product that reflects both sides of the issue and they cannot do so when access one side is denied to them.
A critical aspect presented repeatedly by reporters was changing the cultural mindset that the military has for independent reporters. McPhedran and Wilson (2009) identified that when the military sees an independent reporter, it automatically assumes that the reporter is hostile toward the military. WSJ (2009) further added that the military usually views unilaterals as cowboys who have gone native and; therefore, are hostile. The following quote by a PAO lends credence to the perceptions held by the media, Donnelly (2009) identified that, “We (military) should be considerate (of unilaterals). . . Give them more attention and not brush them off but be as inclusive as possible of all journalists regardless of medium, popularity, background, or agenda.”
Broad Military-Media Relationship
From the media’s perspective one way to improve military-media relations on the battlefield is to tell the truth when unpleasant accidents like the Palestine hotel occurs. The perception was that every time the military provided an update on the situation the story changed drastically as to what allegedly occurred. The take away impression received by the press from this incident was that the military had a “deny and make up” policy that it used until the event was no longer news (Wilson 2009). The media would like to see the military acknowledge the event and then identify that the event is under investigation rather than issuing inaccurate information that could be perceived as stall tactic used to intentionally mislead the media and, thereby the public.
WSJ (2009) identified a critical paradox that exists in the military. The reporter identified that the military, as an institution, thrives on criticism to make it better. Therefore, as an organization the military has built in critique mechanisms such as the after action reviews that allows the identification of strengths, weaknesses, and areas that need improvement (WSJ 2009). Unfortunately the perception is the military will take criticism for any organization just as long as it is not the media. For some reason, if the military is criticized, especially the Army, in the media it is not well received and all sorts of radical labels are attached to a reporter or the reporter’s parent organization instead of objectively viewing the critique in the same manner as other critique methods are viewed (WSJ 2009).
In summary, there is a general consensus that the military’s relationship with the media improved due to the embedded media program. However, the program could improve in areas such as affordability, access, and on how the military assigns reporters. The relationship with unilaterals must also improve, especially in the areas of safety, respect, and recognizing that they are on the battlefield to do a job rather than pursuing an anti-military agenda. In general, the military-media relationship still has room for improvement especially in the area of information dissemination on crisis events like the Palestine hotel. The military expects the media to be objective and to tell the truth, it also should show the same respect to the media. In the end, both institutions need to cooperate with each other in order to effectively meet their respective organizational goals.
This research set out to answer how do the media envision the roles of unilateral and embedded reporter during wartime and how does the military view the roles of unilateral and embedded reporters during wartime? Furthermore it sought to identify the benefits and disadvantages of embedded and unilateral reporters on the battlefield and if both are required to present a whole view of the action occurring on the battlefield, as well as, identify what the military should do to improve its relationship with unilateral reporters.
Throughout this analysis, it was obvious that the military and the media share similar views on certain aspects analyzed. For example, both the military and the media praised the embedded media program, acknowledged that the military-media relationship has improved, and the Army’s story was told as a result of the embedded program. Both organizations valued and supported the expeditious dissemination of information to the public during wartime. Both organizations acknowledged the need for a reporter training program for both the embedded and unilateral reporters prior to placing them or allowing them access to the battlefield. Both organizations identified that the relationship with unilateral reporters needed improvement, especially in the realm of reporter safety. Furthermore, both the PAOs and the media professionals identified transportation as a drawback to media operations on the battlefield. Additionally as professionals, both groups had opinions of each other. The media’s opinion toward PAOs was negative based on the fact that they were the military’s mouthpiece; however, the PAOs professed a positive view toward reporters of all types and acknowledged their role in providing information about the military to society whether it was good, bad or neutral.
Embedded and unilateral coverage of the battlefield are complementary of each other; and therefore, both are needed to provide the audience a broader perspective of the events occurring on the battlefield. The media saw the role of unilateral and embedded reporters as conveyors of information to the public. They identified that all reporters no matter their label were to report on what they see and hear at their respective reporting locations and military level of operations. On the other hand, the military viewed the embedded reporter as part of the global information environment that is to be leveraged and used to military’s advantage when possible. Although there was recognition that unilateral reporters have a role on the battlefield, the idea of their presence was met with trepidation. This in turn, results in the military treating unilaterals differently than embedded reporters and often times the unilaterals are not afforded access to military personnel and military information; therefore, they have difficulty presenting both sides of the story.
Additionally, this study sought to identify the perceived benefits and disadvantages of embedded and unilateral reporting from various points of view that included the general military, the public affairs officer, and the media, which included embedded and unilateral reporters. The primary benefit identified by all toward both types of reporting was when combined together, embedded and unilateral reporting provided a broader view of the conflict than if they were the sole reporting source. The disadvantages of embedded and unilateral reporting were, in regards to the embedded reporter, was the loss of his/her freedom of movement and confinement to a relatively small reporting environment and for the unilateral reporter, access to sources and safety on the battlefield.
There is no doubt that all groups recognize the value of embedded reporting during wartime. Likewise, there is no doubt that all groups identified that the unilateral reporter plays a role in battlefield reporting. However, on the military’s side, these reporters are viewed with skepticism and their motives are suspect which is rare for an embedded reporter, unless they have proven themselves to possess an agenda. On the other hand, the media views embedded reporters with skepticism because it is believed that they can potentially lose their objectivity in covering the conflict because of their close proximity to the sources of information. Therefore, the relationship between the military and the media remains problematic especially in the military’s view of unilateral reporter and the media’s view of the embedded reporter.
The military-media relationship can improve if the military can change its perspective toward unilateral reporters and view them as a professional completing a job rather than a nuisance. The media can change its view toward the employment of embedded reporters by trusting that embedded reporters are professional bound by professional requirements to remain objective. As long as the media views embedded media as “being in bed with” the military, there will always be professional skepticism toward embedded reporters and their representation of the military’s story. At the end of the day, embedded and unilateral reporters form the whole of media coverage on the battlefield; and therefore, are a critical means for informing the public. Therefore, the battlefield should not favor one type of reporting over the other or grant access to the battlefield only to embedded reporters. Both types of reporting are needed to inform the public
This study recommends that the Department of Defense and the U.S. Armed Services implement as quickly as possible the following ideas:
Develop an all encompassing media plan that incorporates the embedded and unilateral reporter; one built to acknowledge and respect the media’s independence while providing access to the battlefield for both types of reporters. This can be done, by changing the military’s skeptical attitude toward the role of the unilateral reporter to one that accepts the unilateral and evaluates all reporters based on accuracy rather than PAO judgment and the ‘good news only’ factor.
Develop ways to make the embedded media system affordable for all media organizations and not just the large ones, such as allowing media personnel the ability to fly MAC flights directly into country, provide them with the appropriate protective gear that can be issued to them, and set aside dedicated transportation assets that will facilitate the media’s requirements.
Recognize that although embedded media improved military-media relations, the relationship can become static and; therefore, should be cultivated during peacetime by incorporating embedded and unilateral reporters into special training events and major exercises.
Consider and implement the recommendations provided by the professional military and media personnel because their recommendations stem from “on the ground” experiences that they encountered while working in the combat zone and thereby are a form of after action review.
Continue to seek recommendations from both the military and media in regards to developing a unilateral reporter registration system that can be quickly accessed by military and media personnel alike. This program should be user-friendly and easily accessible for both the military and the media. Furthermore it should allow a reporter to register on-line and give them the ability to upload an itinerary that can be transmitted to the lowest tactical level and; thereby, mitigate some of the risks that unilaterals face on the battlefield. This program should also allow the military the ability to communicate un-classified generic information that could prove useful for the unilateral reporter; for example, if there general safety warnings for an area or simple logistical information such as petrol stations.
Change the military culture that views unilaterals as instantly hostile towards the military and the conflict, as undermining irritants out for their own glory. A culture change must come for the senior leaders within the branches of the military. All leaders regardless of how they view the media need to make an effort to recognize their place in wartime operations. Once, an effort is made to change the cultural mindset at the higher leadership levels, the lower levels will become more accepting of the cultural change. Furthermore, enforce the application of the current military doctrine that supports media engagement. Develop and provide media engagement training for all soldiers not just the senior leadership; one promotes an understanding and openness to engage both unilateral and embedded reporters.
Improve the media’s perspective of the PAO especially of those serving in the army, by emulating the mindset and actions of the PAOs interviewed for this paper or those who serve as marine PAOs. All of the PAO’s interviewed for this paper were progressive in their thinking toward the media and possessed a spirit to engage and help the media obtain the story that they wanted to write. Develop a mindset that intuitively realizes that embedded reporters want to be with combat units at the smaller bases rather than at a big base with sustainment type units.
Support the unilateral reporter in as many ways as possible without endangering the mission; rather than immediately assuming they are hostile to the military or are rogue cowboys seeking sensationalism, view them as part of the overall media program. This can be done by simply granting unilaterals access to a military unit that can tell the military’s story. Or providing logistical and other types of useful information such as if a route is closed or identifying if a place is considered not safe.
The military-media relationship must be a give and take relationship between both parties. Both sides need to consider the needs of each other and find ways to meet each other’s needs without impacting the military mission or denying media access. The military-media relationship during wartime will continue to be tense if the DOD and the Armed Services do not develop a plan that effectively incorporates the unilateral reporter on the battlefield. It is acknowledged by all parties that it is impossible for the military to fully accommodate unilateral reporters; however, it can change the mindset that views the unilateral as on nuisance on the battlefield and implement safety measures that will facilitate a safer environment for unilateral reporters. Freedom of the press is highly valued by the American public, the military, and the media; however, this very freedom is prevented by the military’s practice and mindset that views embedded reporting as the only type of reporting appropriate for the battlefield. Therefore, the freedom of the press cannot be fully realized unless all parties seek to build common plan that includes the unilateral reporter on the battlefield.
Although this paper has studied the role of the independent reporter on the battlefield, further study on the topic should be conducted. Furthermore, this study brought out other areas that should researched such as, a comparison of the embedded media policies and processes of NATO or coalition partners, what the military’s new media training should encompass, an examination and comparison of the perception and role of public affair officers in the four branches of service, and how to incorporate international media from the countries where the combat action is occurring. These topics were bed the scope of the paper but do merit further study.
Accreditation. The paperwork and background check process that a reporter must complete in order to receive a press badge that provides them access to military personnel and information.
Credentialed. A reporter who completed the accreditation process and has been issued a badge from the appointed military media liaison cell.
Embedded Reporter. A type of reporter that lives, eats, sleeps, and accompanies military units into combat.
Freelance Reporter. A reporter not connected to one particular media organization can be a unilateral or embedded reporter.
Force Multiplier. Anything that gives the military an advantage on the battlefield.
Global Information Environment. All individuals, organizations, or systems that collect, process, and disseminate information for public consumption.
Prior Restraint. The government’s actions that prevent the communication of information from becoming public knowledge.
Tertius Gaudens. A third party that benefits from the conflict of two other parties.
Unilateral/Independent Reporter. A reporter reporting the military conflict apart from the embedded media process. The reporter can belong to a large, medium, or small media organization or be a freelance reporter.
QUESTION WRAP UP
What is your contact/experience with embedded reporters?
Of the eleven officers interviewed, three of them had experiences with embedded reporters. The remaining eight had no experience with embedded reporters.
What do you think of embedded reporters and the stories produced by them?
The eleven military officers responded favorably to the use of embedded reporters. However, five of the eleven expressed reservations toward embedded media due to the military’s perception that the media look for sensationalism and mix up the facts.
Should the military continue the embedded reporter program? (why or why not)
Ten officers responded that the program should be kept and one responded that they were unsure if it should be continued.
How can the program, if kept, be improved?
Eight of the eleven officers responded with ideas to improve the program. One officer responded that the program was working fine; and therefore, did not need to be improved and two officers did not know how to improve the program.
What are the drawbacks and/or benefits for the use of embedded media?
Ten of the eleven officers identified their perception of the embedded media program. Ten officers indentified their perception as to the benefits to the embedded media program. One officer did not identify drawbacks of benefits.
During combat operations have you encountered independent (not embedded) reporters on the battlefield? (If so, please provide details of the encounter)
Two of the eleven officers responded that they encountered unilaterals on the battlefield and nine identified that they had not encountered unilateral reporters on the battlefield.
What do you think of independent reporters covering the battlefield?
Six officers supported the idea of unilateral reporting on the battlefield because this reporting provided more information and could be a way to cover the conflict without bias. Three officers were hesitant about the presence of unilateral reporters on the battlefield due to security and safety concerns and two had no opinion on the topic.
Should the US military be considerate of the independent reporter on the battlefield?
Four officers responded that the military should be considerate of the unilateral reporter on the battlefield. One officer said no. One officer had no opinion. Five officers were not opposed to them on the battlefield but felt that consideration should be granted within reason and in a manner that did not risk mission accomplishment.
How can the military improve its relationship with independent reporters?
Ten officers provided recommendations on how to improve the military’s relationship with the unilateral reporter. One officer had no opinion.
Do you have a preference for the type of reporter that you would like to work with? (why)
Nine officers did not have a preference for either type of reporter. These officers preferred to work with any reporter that was interested in objectively covering the army’s story and one who does not have a set agenda. One officer preferred to work with embeds because they appear to be more interested in building a relationship with the military and one had no opinion.
What is your overall view/perspective/ or impression of the media? (why)
Six officers had a favorable view of the media and their role of informing the public. Four viewed them as having an agenda and out for self interest and one had no opinion.
Public Affairs Officers
What is your view of embedded media?
Three public affairs officers were interviewed and all three responded in favor to the use of embedded media on the battlefield because it provided the public with real-time information.
How can the embedded media program improve?
Out of the three officers interview two responded with suggestions and the other stated that the program was running fine; and therefore, changes were not required.
What is your experience with embedded media?
Three public affairs officers responded that they had contact with embedded media.
In terms of training, do you think the military receives enough media training?
Three public affairs officers responded that the military needed to revamp its media program and to provide more training to military personnel.
Did you have bad experiences with embedded reporters?
Two of the three officers could identify an experience that could be considered a negative experience however, it was viewed more as a learning experience by one and the way things go with another.
What do you think of embedded media?
Eight reporters were interviewed. Two viewed embedded media positively and six identified that it served a role but should not be considered the only method of reporting on the battlefield.
How can the military improve the embed program?
Eight of the reporters provided suggestions as how the program could be improved.
What is your embed experience?
Four of the eight reporters had embedded experience at various military level; tactical, operational and strategic.
What is your unilateral experience?
Six of the eight reporters interviewed had unilateral experience on the battlefield and acknowledged that this was their preferred method of covering a conflict.
What can the military do to improve its relationship with unilateral reporter and the media in general?
The eight reporters interviewed identified that the military media relationship could still improve. Six of the eight identified that the unilateral reporter should be treated with respect on the battlefield and protected as much as possible.
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