During the unscheduled sequel to spring break – thanks to 30-plus inches of heavy, wet snow last week – many of you probably watched countless hours of war coverage.
You probably saw image upon image of bombs dropping on presidential palaces. You probably saw many hours of analysis, breaking developments, and hours of live footage from the front lines with fuzzy, pixilated pictures of war correspondents reacting to dropping bombs and surrendering Iraqi troops.
In this conflict, the Pentagon has allowed the media to cover just about anything the media want to cover. Never in past wars has there been any live battlefield coverage. In the previous Gulf War, reporters were allowed to cover the battles using a “pool” system, where the military allows one correspondent to report certain aspects of the war and share that information with the other journalists in the pool.
But why is the military now allowing this new, almost unfettered access?
One possibility is we are fighting a war that is not too popular among millions around the world, including in the United States. It is also unpopular among governments like France, Germany, China and Russia.
The military and U.S. government could be allowing such coverage so people around the world know exactly what is going on.
But watch the reports, and you’ll see the American press at times acting as a mouthpiece for the military. Some reporters are leaving the journalistic principles of fairness and objectivity behind in Doha, Qatar, or forgetting them entirely as they hurriedly don gas masks.
Maybe the military knew it could get favorable coverage from the American media by allowing so much freedom in war coverage. And if that is the case, it is working well so far.
The coverage seems entirely concentrated on the war efforts and American successes – with only an occasional blurb about protests from around the world and in the United States.
While the openness in media access is wonderful for American democracy and the press, reporters need to remember sacred journalistic principles and report all sides, presenting fair and accurate news to the public.
Otherwise, our government will go unchecked as it keeps trying to spread its own messages.