Embedded Reporters Capturing War with Iraq in 'Textured' Detail

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Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

The invasion of Iraq has added a new phrase to the lexicon of war reporting: the embedded reporter.

In contrast to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when the Pentagon strictly controlled access to battlefields to present a more "sanitized" picture of the war, reporters in the Iraq war have been placed with combat units from the Persian Gulf to the front in Kuwait.

And with the advent of better satellite technology, American viewers may get the most close-up look at war since Vietnam.

"I think the main difference between the '91 war and now is the increased access that journalists have," said Al Stavitsky, a professor of broadcast journalism at the University of Oregon. "The coverage back in '91 was largely limited to journalists confined to hotels and desperate for information doled out by military authorities. What we have now is seemingly quite different."

That's already been noticeable on network and cable news broadcasts, as anchors switch from a reporter watching planes jet off carrier decks to another waiting with an infantry unit to another watching a missile launch. In fact, there's been so much reporting that it often gets ahead of the news and leaves reporters with little new to report.

"This is life in the age of constant deadlines, where you are constantly being asked to report and update the story and much of the time there's nothing new to report," Stavitsky said.

But that should change as American forces begin their advance on Iraq. The new policy of embedding reporters with troops could produce far more dramatic news coverage than in the gulf war.

UO journalism professor Jim Upshaw said the Pentagon came in for criticism after that war when it was discovered it had overstated the effectiveness of such things as Patriot missile defenses and smart bomb accuracy and understated civilian casualties. …