It's Hollywood! No It's Somalia! Military Leaders Question Massive Media-Presence Landing of U.S. Armed Forces, but Media Say Pentagon Encouraged It

By Gersh, Debra | Editor & Publisher, December 19, 1992 | Go to article overview

It's Hollywood! No It's Somalia! Military Leaders Question Massive Media-Presence Landing of U.S. Armed Forces, but Media Say Pentagon Encouraged It


Gersh, Debra, Editor & Publisher


Military leaders question massive media-presence landing of U.S. armed forces, but media say Pentagon encouraged it

LIGHTS! CAMERA! AMPHIBIOUS landing!

In a scene that made the beaches of Somalia look like a Hollywood premiere, as U.S. armed forces went ashore there they were greeted in the dead of night by the glare of television cameras and popping flashes.

Although the Pentagon had made little pretense about where and when the landing would be, officials there said they never expected such a media presence on the beach.

Not only was there concern about the lights making troops an easy target for snipers, but Navy SEALs and Marines wearing night vision goggles -- designed to amplify available light -- were temporarily blinded.

"My immediate reaction was one of anger," Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney was quoted as saying. "Fortunately, it didn't create any major problems for us and nobody was hurt."

Assistant Secretary of Defense/Public Affairs Pete Williams told reporters at a briefing before the landing that "When you cover a football game, you know, you don't put your crews out there on the middle of the 50-yard line, even though that might be the best place to watch. You stay off the playing field."

There was some question, however, about how emphatically and how expeditiously Pentagon officials had sought to keep reporters off the beach.

Williams reportedly never asked media representatives specifically to keep their reporters and camera people off the beach until after the landing had begun. It was only after the fact that advisories were sent to U.S. news organizations, and it was unclear whether the foreign press, which was there in force as well, even received such a warning.

"The Pentagon knew there would be reporters on the beach and didn't seem to have reservations about it until after receiving complaints," commented Society of Professional Journalists president Georgiana Vines in a released statement.

"If the military had thought the American forces were in any kind of danger, it would have expressed its apprehension two days ago, when it was made aware of the media's plans," stated Vines, assistant managing editor of the Knoxville (Tenn. …

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