Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Shoptalk

Article excerpt

WAR OF THE WORLDS

TV sanitized the attack on Iraq -- but he gets the hate mail

There must have been two wars in Iraq. There was the war I saw and wrote about as a print journalist embedded with a tank company of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized). Then there was the war that many Americans saw, or wanted to see, on TV.

That is the only conclusion I can draw while going through the e-mail messages I have received from irate readers whose view of the televised war from the warm comfort of their living rooms did not match the war I reported on. "Do us a favor, stay in Iraq. We don't need reporters who are un-American," urged one man.

I saw and wrote about a war that was confusing and chaotic, as are all wars. It was a war in which plans and missions changed almost daily -- and on one occasion changed three times in an hour. It was a war in which civilians died and were horribly wounded. It was a war in which soldiers questioned the intelligence they received, the logistics lines that had trouble supplying them with water and spare parts, and the reasons they were fighting the war.

Apparently that is not the war the TV-viewing and occasional newspaper- reading public wanted to see or thought it saw. But, according to a recent study by the Readership Institute, a large percentage of Americans preferred to get their war news from TV and not from newspapers. The war they saw, or thought they saw, on TV was meticulously planned, flawlessly executed -- and not a single member of the armed forces had a complaint or problem. Few civilians died in that war.

The unit that Brant Sanderlin, a photographer for The Atlanta Journal- Constitution, and I were with was part of Task Force 1-64 of the 3rd Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. It led the division into Baghdad on what was later referred to as the "Thunder Run" of April 5. Two days later, it again was at the head of the Army convoy that went into Baghdad to stay. The closest TV crew was from Fox and was consistently behind us with the brigade commander.

When I wrote in one story about "bloody street fighting in Baghdad," it appeared the morning TV viewers were seeing jubilant Marines and Iraqi civilians tearing down statues of Saddam Hussein on the eastern side of the Tigris River. Some readers, believing all of Baghdad was like that, were livid. They did not grasp the fact that, on the western side of the river, pitched battles were still taking place. …

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