• How much the media can get away with reporting ‘objectively’ on a war is overwhelmingly determined by
“In news about international relations journalists are not expected to balance their presentation between pro and anti American viewpoints… Only when foreign policy generates sufficient division within legitimate political circles, must media balance be taken into account.” (Hackett, 231) From - Decline of a Paradigm? Bias and Objectivity in News Media Studies (1984)
With that previous quote in mind, consider this:• Your opinion of Australia going to war immediately after 9/11and how the media covered the war.•Your opinion of the Iraq invasion in 2003 and how the mediacovered that.•Your opinion of the Iraq War after no WMDS were recoveredand the media coverage of the war then.•Your opinion of the war now and the media’s coverage.
Can journalists be both objective and patriotic in covering wars? Yes and no – it is dependent on the public’s opinion of the war.
What effects can embeddingjournalists in military units have on the nature of news reported?
Embedded Reporters: What Are Americans getting?• Media’s eye is on the frontline rather than the country’s people.• It’s a report of a reporter’s involvement in war rather than a soldier’s.• Embedded reporters can become too close to the troops.• Only gives reporter a limited vantage point on the war and is questionable whether they can fully contextualise the news they report.• Term ‘embedded’ suggests a closeness that may erode journalists role as fact checker.• The ‘as it happens’ nature of live embedded reporting often results in inaccurate relay of information. Original doc can be found here
Case Study• The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton lived on an aircraft carrier ‘hanging out’ with fighter pilots for a month. This led to pilots considering her as more of a ‘buddy’.• One morning a pilot was exuberant about a successful bombing mission.• Due to the friendship she had developed with the pilot, she had to ask herself some questions before reporting on it: • Would he want the world to know he was ‘buzzed’ about bombings? • Would it be fair to report these unguarded moments? What would you do? Where would your priorities lie?
Layton said: “I included a reference to this episode but I handled it gingerly and didn’t completely report what I saw. I’m still not sure whether I made the right choice then or now.” (Seib, 2004)From - “Technology and empathy: The new war journalism” in BeyondThe Front Lines: How The News Media Cover a World Shaped By War(2004)
Case Study• Scott Bernard Nelson of The Boston Globe• When the military unit he was embedded with came under fire, he saw muzzle flashes coming from a nearby building.• He yelled out to the ‘gunner’ of his vehicle and pointed out the location.• The gunner blasted the spot with his 0.5 caliber machine gun and killed the sniper.
Reflecting on this Nelson said: “The question is whether the coverage I provided was tainted as a result. I’d like to think it wasn’t” (Seib, 2004)Do you think it was tainted?Is it the job of the journalist to be so involved?
Case Study• Gordon Dillow of the Orange County Register said being embedded with troops affected the way he reported stories because he saw everything the way they did.• “When some of my marines fired up a civilian vehicle that was bearing down on them, killing three unarmed Iraqi men, I reported it- but I didn’t lead my story with it and I was careful to put it in the context of scared young men trying to protect themselves.” (Seib, 2004)• “When my marines laughed about how 0.5 calibre machine gun bullets had torn apart an Iraq soldiers body, I wrote about that, but in the context of sweet-faced, all-American boys hardened by a war that wasn’t their making.” (Seib, 2004)
Was Dillow’s close involvement affecting his reporting for better or worse?
• Dillow said of himself: “The point wasn’t that I wasn’t reporting the truth; the point was that I was reporting the marine grunt truth- which had also become my truth.” (Seib, 2004)
Embedded journalism: good or bad in terms of affecting the nature of news that gets reported?
Mark’s Ridiculous AnalogyIn a perfectly objective media world, media’s coverage of wars would be treated like umpires officiating international sporting matches: they would not be involved if their own country was involved.
Which means our neutral friends the Swiss could just cover everyone’s wars and everyone would be happy. Australia’s next war correspondents?