America Free Press Obligations in times of war

Rologirl By Rologirl, 26th Apr 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>General Non-Fiction

At the height of our second invasion into Iraq many called into question the obligations of the press to report on the atrocities performed on the troops as well as theirs on the enemy. It was also questioned because reporters who were embedded with the troops were compromising attacks with wanting to be the first to report on the outcomes of each excursion.

America's Free press Rights


There are many reasons why our Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush, would consider going to war against a seemingly hostile nation and many factors that had influenced his final decision to attack. President Bush had an appointed military planning team and national security advisors who provided combat reconnaissance information. The planning team and security advisors received strategic reliable data which confirmed what the president’s wartime course of action should be. This data could persuade Bush to first consider raising our national security alert or increase investigations and peace talks. However, going to war requires congressional and executive branch checks and balances between military and civilian war planners.
Negotiations between possible terrorist factions must be handled with much cultural diplomacy and excellent international bargaining strategies. Upon the decision to invade a sovereign nation, a national threat must be realized by the Commander in Chief. The Commander-in-Chief would then ask his high ranking generals and ground commanders to give him feedback as to how to proceed. A former Pentagon communication’s chief tells how to deliver news, to defuse scandal, and to build trusting relations with all constituents involved (Clarke, 2006). Clarke, a former Pentagon spokeswoman, further stated that “when giving bad news that someone has screwed-up, say so fast; if you do not aggressive journalists will discover the news and expose it (Clarke, 2006).”

Context of the Problem
Most journalists do not just report a story they frame and package the news with the stories that reflect the mind-set of the newsroom (Leo, 2005).
According to Victoria Clarke, a former Pentagon spokeswoman the mindset of the newsroom is reinforced under an often times volatile relationship between the associated Press and the Pentagon. The Pentagon wants positive coverage as much as possible with a minimum amount of criticism regarding the President’s wartime policies. However, agencies like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stress the first amendment rights of free press without restrictions. The ACLU has given public figures such as then National Security Council advisor Condoleeza Rice cause for concern. Rice had divulged to the Associated Press that the “leaders of the insurgency in Iraq are not granted freedoms of counsel during a time of war.” (Clarke, 2006) This statement led to criticisms in the press regarding hypocrisy. The major media mediums in this country including The Washington Post, NBC News, and CNN vehemently supported that conclusion.
The media, known for its surmised and scrupulous tactics of journalism during previous conflicts like the Vietnam War was destined to improve their image and become a good source of information for the public to follow the latest developments. The media’s role became wider in the new conflict in Iraq.
The world had front-row seats to the war in Iraq because many journalists traveled with American fighting forces furnishing realistic and personable stories about our troops (Tayler, 2003). “On March 19, 2003, the United States of America declared war on Iraq. Whitehouse Press Secretary Scott McClellan for President Bush explained that “the course of action was approved after diligently gathering intelligence information from covert American operatives in Iraq who claimed that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) stockpiled at his numerous Presidential residents to be used to launch new attacks”(Clarke, 2006). If there was consensus in our discussions, it was that Iraq’s fledgling democracy needed a safe, professional and independent media.
Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke stated, “journalist’s covered the good, the bad, and the in between” (Clarke, 2006) for the American public. On the other hand former Washington Post embedded reporter Steve Fainaru who had just recently returned from Iraq stated that “everyone wants to read their view of the war in your story. To me the only issue is whether our stories are real or not. I never got complaints from the people who were involved in the subject matter of the stories.” (Howell, 2006) Embedding brought a newfound respect between reporters and soldiers.

The Statement of the Problem
With the military’s cooperation –navy, army, air force, marines, and coast guard embedded news correspondents in Iraq have heralded a new era in the relationship between the Press and the Pentagon who were at odds over past conflict coverage most notably the Vietnam War. The military claims sensationalism and the press counterclaims with accusations of censorship, red tape, and bureaucracy. Censorship, since both Iraqi and American governments provided unsubstantiated opinionated comments about the situation, red tape was put in effect because of the limited access to travel along with the troops for up-to-date coverage, and bureaucracy because the politicians wanted certain heroic angles covered by the press.
Lastly, sensationalism because the public was hungry for stories like that of Private Jessica Lynch who survived an attack on her unit and was for a time deemed a Prisoner of War (POW) even if certain details were not entirely truthful or accurate once she was released (Bragg, 2003).
“One of the biggest mistakes, Gordon a renowned military journalist said “was the dysfunctional quality in our own government.”(Esack, 2006). Gordon was attending a lecture series at Moravian College when he made these comments in reference to inquiries by students about the war’s progress. Gordon goes on to imply that the Bush administration packed the pentagon with too many “Yes” people and there was no checks and balances between military and civilian planners (Esack, 2006).
Without this done planners failed to take into account that Iraq and Afghanistan would have to be rebuilt from within because of ethnic groups like Shi’ites and the Sunnis who by tradition did not get along (Esack, 2007). As more sketchy details emerged from these embedded reporters journals and became major headline news stateside, political leaders like Senator Hillary Clinton began to worry about their seats in Congress having not researched their vote on going to war. Implementing foreign policies that would secure Iraq quickly and bring more wealth to this country in the form of its huge oil deposits would satisfy the American people’s insatiable palate for energy. The public’s image of the conflict was being controlled by both the Iraqi and American governments’ use of propaganda which promotes their ideology. Images of Iraqi insurgents terrorizing the troops appeared in their papers while images of Americans
bullying them were printed in theirs. Unfortunately, as the war dragged on terrorists’ like Osama Bin Laden who had eluded prosecution for his role in the 09/11 attacks by hiding in the northern region of Iraq and Pakistan’s borders only caused deep antipathy for both sides of the conflict. Questions about the Bush Administration’s foreign policies were now at a crossroad.

Main Research Question and Sub-questions
The main research question for this study is: How does sensationalism and conflicting facts play a role in regards to reporting? To answer this question, the following sub-question will be addressed:
1. What is the importance of military secrecy when reporting wartime news?
2. How are the Bush administration’s wartime policies regarding the Iraq War perceived in America?
3. What are the ethical and political procedures for wartime journalist when on assignment?
Significance of the Study
This study recognizes the sacrifices of syndicated newspaper journalists who’ve conveyed a clear and unbiased position on the war.
This study will help clarify the correspondent’s dilemma with the military while trying to present material which is fair to those on both sides of the conflict as to not incite protests. This research is also of importance because it will incite you to use your first amendment rights in regards to the growing base of knowledge about journalism.
To the extent, the study reveals how editors grapple with content decisions because the military doesn’t want its plans revealed ahead of time for fear of losing battles with the insurgents thus destroying the cause for freedom. This is surely understandable when the reporters who are supposed to tell the story have become the story themselves’. This way journalist’s can provide a new perspective on a war riddled with poor intelligence information and ethical dilemmas. These ethical Dilemmas that have continued to shape the political arena. The media’s role has been expanded in its responsibilities towards informing, protecting, and influencing the American public’s opinion.
Research Design and Methodology
This research is by and large of a qualitative nature. It was conducted by collecting and analyzing information found in secondary sources. The goal was to analyze issues surrounding wartime journalism including sensationalism, conflicting facts, censorship by both Iraqi and American governments as well as certain personal risk factors for both soldier and reporter. Insight was gained by answering the three sub-questions related to the main research question to focus on the effectiveness of war coverage.
The findings presented in this study are based on data collected from various secondary sources: The internet, magazines, books, and journals published by organizations of varying political ideologies. Reviewing different positions from the two prominent political entities in this paper is essential to understanding these journalistic endeavors. Because of the varying political views on what should be broadcast or printed in major media outlets, the subject remains controversial. Reading statistical information, historical perspectives and analyzing data gathered by field reporters permitted the researcher a personal perspective and conclusion.
Organization of the Study
The first chapter of this study served as an introduction to the research topic. A presentation of the problem to be addressed is provided in addition to a contextual background and statement of the problem. The main research question is also given with three related sub-questions and an overview of the significance of the study. Lastly, an explanation of the methodology is provided to show how the main research question would be addressed. The second chapter is a thorough review of 20 sources associated with the subject of wartime journalism. There has been much analysis and debate regarding wartime journalism and its influence on the public perception of the war. Chapter 3 provides key perspectives on military secrecy when it comes to using the press in wartime journalism with respect to bolstering the image of American interest around the world. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the American peoples’ position and how the President’s wartime policies have changed their view of the events overseas. Chapter 5 provides insight into the ethical and political procedures journalists face when covering the war in Iraq. Chapter 6 summarizes the information provided in the previous chapters to draw a conclusion on the main research question of the study and provide policy recommendations.


Secret Clearance, Target, Time

Meet the author

author avatar Rologirl
A Military brat that has grown up all over the world and will pull ideas got from traveling.

Share this page

moderator Steve Kinsman moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Apr 2015 (#)

Thanks for sharing your article.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Legend
27th Apr 2015 (#)

A fascinating discourse

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?