01 February, 2006

Soldiers React to Coverage of Injured Journalists

Update 2: Another veteran responds.

UPI has an interesting article about the reactions of soldiers in Iraq who have seen the extremely high level of coverage for the two wounded ABC journalists. An officer in Baqouba writes, "It's a bit stunning to us over here how absolutely dominant the story is on every network and front page. I mean, you'd think we lost the entire 1st Marine Division or something."

A senior officer adds, "The point that is currently being made (is that) that press folks are more important than mere military folks."

Considering the antipathy many deployed personnel have expressed towards journalists who "drop in" for a day/weekend embed with their unit, I don't find this a bit surprising. The sad thing is that it further feeds into the image that America doesn't remember the troops.

I can't remember where I read this recently, but Captain Ziegenfuss mentioned this in his recent CNN interview, and I thought it was an awesome idea: make a military embed a very long-term commitment. That means the reporter would be there from the unit's pre-deployment training right through to the deployment and return home. This would build some trust between all involved--unit leadership could trust that the reporter would support and understand issues of OPSEC, know enough not to get in the way, and better comprehend what he observes. The average grunt would trust the reporter enough to be honest about his experience and what is happening to him, trusting that the reporter has the understanding and context to tell the whole story in a balanced light.

The American public would benefit greatly from this kind of setup because we would be getting much broader and more well-informed reports to help us understand what is really happening and to bridge the gulf between the military and civilian worlds. Isn't that what good reporting is supposed to do--give us information that helps us better understand our world and thus make informed decisions about how we will respond to it?

And a reporter who had lived a year of the injuries and death of war (or his associates) wouldn't be saying idiotic things about how the death of a journalist "makes this real."

A wounded soldier shares his thoughts on the subject.