Distorting Defense: Network and National Security

Article excerpt

DISTORTING DEFENSE: Network and National Security, Stephen P. Aubin, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT, 1999, 262 pages, $62.95.

The ability of major US networks to report significant events fairly, accurately and objectively is a topic of great debate. This is especially true for reports pertaining to national defense and security. Given the role of evening newscasts as principle conveyors of information, watchdogs and interpreters of government policies, how accurately do they present defense and security issues to the public they serve? Do they present these issues in the proper context without distorting or omitting facts? Stephen D. Aubin says, "No."

Aubin's well-written book, Distorting Defense: Network and National Security, should be read by those who desire fully to comprehend how much the "CNN effect" affects US national defense and security. Targeting the day-to-day network coverage of national security news, Aubin finds that reporters often violate basic journalistic standards. After meticulously dissecting national-security news into 12 distinct topics, he assesses each using Society of Professional Journalists standards. He critiques major network news reports from identical time periods during selected years within four presidential administrations. He superbly supports his findings with concise, concrete examples of network coverage that clearly demonstrate shortcomings. He then offers sound recommendations to correct patterns of problematic coverage.

Aubin attributes the high percentage of shortcomings to the media's narrow focus on scandals, corruption and other sensational stories about the misuse of government funds. …