Academic journal article Journalism History

Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War

Academic journal article Journalism History

Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War

Article excerpt

Hammond, William M. Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. 362 pp. $34.95.

No one should be surprised that the military and the news media spar at times when both have personnel in the field of battle. In fact, friction over coverage of war might be the best sign that the truth of what is happening is reaching the public in addition to (or in spite of) the official line. Thus, military historian and professor William H. Hammond's title question in his fine book, What Went Wrong Between the Military and the News Media in Vietnam?, errs only in seeming to suggest it could have been otherwise. Given the overwhelming problems faced by military spokesmen and leaders, government officials and policy makers, and the print and broadcast news media, it is surprising relations took as long as they did to sour. By using primary sources to document the crumbling of trust and credibility on all sides, Reporting Vietnam rejects the simplistic description heard so often these days: the press turned the public against the war and, therefore, its conclusion was more the result of a failure of public relations, or worse, of irresponsible reporting. Instead, Hammond illustrates the futility of the effort to pitch the war to the public and to Congress through the press.

The salesmen worked within the Johnson and Nixon administrations, as well as the military command. Most of them did not understand that negative press was inevitable in a free society when policies faltered and soldiers died. Nor would they accept the reality that their failures, not the reports of their failures, eroded support of the war.

Standing between the worst impulses of both sides were the military and administration personnel who argued in favor of candor by the military and caution by the press. …

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