Media Coverage In The Vietnam War And The War On Iraq (2003)

890 words - 4 pages

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should be attended by a bodyguard of lies" - Winston Churchill. Ideally, the media has a responsibility of making sure that it doesn't happen. The media plays a crucial role in covering the war in the most objective, bias-free and truthful manner, even if negative stories have to be reported. The media also plays the role of a "watchdog" in observing the government closely and reporting their actions. In this essay, I shall compare the media coverage between the Vietnam War and Gulf War II. There are four areas to cover, which are the freedom of correspondents, embedding, the reliability and quality of the coverage.

In the Vietnam War, the U.S. government gave war correspondents great freedom to move freely in combat zones, to report whatever they wanted and they didn't require any military vetting (Evans 2003). This freedom resulted a vast magnitude of information including reports from the battlefield, gory pictures of civilian and military casualties, pictures of actual combat straight from the frontlines and first-hand accounts. Consider, for example, the photograph by Eddie Adams of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner (refer to Appendix A) and the `self-immolation' picture taken by Peter Arnett in Saigon. This scene differs from that of the Gulf War II where reporters are embedded into military units. Embeds are journalists who sign up with the military and receive basic military training before being embedded into a military unit. The embedding system seems like a way for the government to control the media. This is primarily because embeds rely mainly on regular military spokesmen briefings which are, in reality, heavily filtered versions of the truth (Wright 2003). Furthermore, embeds would have a tendency to become too attached to their respective units which may impede their objective reporting and may be influenced in one way or another to report subjectively in support to their unit. However, there are a few freelance reporters reporting from Iraq. Moreover, the embeds' movements are monitored and restricted. Although these reporters have greater freedom, they are in a riskier situation as they did not receive basic military training and they are not under the military's protection.

The freedom of war correspondents in reporting can affect the media's coverage on the war. Generally, the public was flooded with all sorts of news and pictures in both wars. However, there are differences in the types of reports and photographs. As stated above, there were many gory pictures during the Vietnam War whereas there are hardly any in Gulf War II. Secondly, in the Vietnam War, the media was accused of writing too many negative stories (Kahrs 1997). What's more is that television coverage did not communicate the communist losses and only showed pictures of dead bodies, burning villages and chaos in Saigon. The media was also accused of ruining public morale with...

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