The embedding of journalists in Iraq has opened up many doors for the profession of journalism and for the United States military. Not only could the general public view the war from inside the battle, they witnessed the dirt raining on the troops as a rocket propelled grenade hits close to a battalions position and the soldiers wince as they are stung by a violent sandstorm. During the conflict, the United States military permitted news organizations to have a reporter travel with the ground troops in Iraq. This not only allowed reporters to record the battles from an up close and personal persepective, but it also allowed the public to see a the human side of the troops. Theoritically, this practice is an incredible opportunity for the military and the news organizations to mend their historically troubled relationship; however, in application it undermines everything that a journalist must do in order to accurately report the news, subjecting themselves to censorship and getting involved with a conflict. It is an ethics nightmare to think of all of the codes of the journalistic profession that are violated with this practice. Although it is better then the relationship between the press and the military has been for many years, it is still flawed and in desperate need of refinement.
During the Vietnam War, censorship was at a minimum. War correspondants traveled freely through Vietnam, often with a military transport. The government was very much ruled by Richard Nixon’s statement “The press is the enemy.” Although Johnson repeatively tried to censor the press, “officials refused, and cited the impossibility of controlling a press corps of hundreds of people from multiple nations.” However, the information that was handed out to the prtess was full of propaganda and were commonly refered to as the “Five o clock Follies” by many journalists. Although the press had quite a bit of freedom in Vitnam, they still had agreements with the government having to do with battle coverage and positions. Such as not reporting battle information until after it had began, and most reporters repespected this practice. However, it was not mandatory; there were no contracts just an unspoken agreement. It was after the Tet Offensive, the operation that revealed that the United States was not winning the war, that the military began to severally limit the press in Vietnem. Increasing during Vietnam, the commreadery between repoers and the soldiers that were a hallmark during World War II and Korea was chipped away. Commanding officiers thought that reportser were trying to make them look like the bad guys and reporters assumed everything they were td was a lie.
Although the public did view the war in Vietnam first hand, the picture was black and white and the quality was poor. The news was also at least 24 hours old when the public received it since the tapes were shippied from Vietnam to the United States. This allowed for more editing then the instantainous news that the public is accustomed to today. The editors and the newworks had much more controlkover what reached the nightly news and what was censored out. Although the media was largely blamed for the attitude change toward the war in Vietnam, when in fact, “Public opinion polls show support for each war declined by about 15 percentage points each time the number of American casualties increased by a factor of ten (100 to 1,000, or 1,000 to 10,000, for example).” This mistrust of the press by the military did not fade with time, during the Gulf War security was high and information was scrace for the press.
The Gulf war was an extremely frusterating time foe the press. Not only was the information and area restricted, but the press had to submit all of their copy for “security clearance,” not only delaying the news to the public, but also allowing the government to censor what was reported and what was kept secret. They also established “press pools.” In a press pool, the military selected about 200 journalists. They were required to submit a story idea to the military, then the military would “assign the journalists to a press pool’ or collection of other journalists who work for the competition.” Then the reporters must pool their resources and share the information. This allowed the military to control the information going out into the mass public. Meanwhile, every news source was reporting the exact same story. The military had successfully stemmed the information coming out of the Gulf. In an interview with PBS, veteran Gulf reporter Rick Atkinson reflected on the limit of information during the Gulf War saying that:
“The general approach toward the press in the Gulf War was to impose restrictions that were more like the restrictions that had been imposed in Korea and in World War II than the free flowing autonomy that was largely given to reporters in Vietnam where you go out and get on a helicopter and go wherever you wanted.”
He added that “That if the press had not been agents of the loss in Vietnam, they had at least been agents of the loss of esteem towards the U.S. military.” Due to the censoring, he Gulf War came across as a bloodless conflict. A main conflict, the bombing of Baghdad resembled a low-tech video game seen through night vision glasses. This is extremely dangerous and extremely misleading.