In the Zone: The Pentagon's Embedding Plan Was a Winner for Journalists and Their Audiences. (from the Editor)
Rieder, Rem, American Journalism Review
The skepticism was completely understandable.
When the Bush administration revealed its plan to "embed" journalists with military units, everyone wondered where the catch was.
After all, this is a regime that has hardly been known for its openness as far as journalists are concerned. That had been particularly true in wartime. In Afghanistan, the Pentagon warmly embraced the little-to-no access policy that characterized Grenada, Panama and Gulf War I. There was to be no hanging out with the GIs, World War II- or Vietnam-style.
But who knew? Now that the fighting has stopped, it's clear that the great embedding experiment was a home run as far as the news media--and the American people--are concerned.
Six hundred journalists had a firsthand view of the combat. That's a far cry from the first gulf war, when reporters were at the mercy of government briefings and that misbegotten press pool. It wasn't until after the war had ended that the truth emerged, when it became clear that those smart bombs weren't quite as smart as they had been cracked up to be.
The difference became crystal clear to me early in the war, when the fragging episode took place. Television was right there, all over the story from the get-go.
That set the tone. Journalists provided on-the-scene accounts of that remarkable dash through the desert. They also chronicled the surprising early rearguard Iraqi resistance and the heartbreaking civilian casualties. Their reporting was often far ahead of the official briefings.
It was an embedded reporter, the Washington Post's William Branigin, who gave the lie to the government account when troops shot at a car packed with Iraqi civilians at an intersection on Highway 9. Branigin heard a captain yell at a platoon leader that he had killed a family because he hadn't fired a warning shot quickly enough.
The embeds, of course, didn't just cover the warts. Their battlefield presence gave their audiences a much fuller picture of the bravery and generosity of the American fighting men and women.
Not that the system was perfect. During the war's early days, some over-the-top, rah-rah reporting on television seemed to bear out the critics' worst fears: that embedded journalists would bond too closely with the soldiers they depended on and would be unable to provide objective coverage. And there was the luck of the draw factor: If your unit didn't see much action, you didn't have much of a story. …