Editors Press NATO

By Strupp, Joe | Editor & Publisher, May 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Editors Press NATO


Strupp, Joe, Editor & Publisher


Left unsatisfied after Pentagon meeting

Two weeks after President Clinton promised newspaper editors more information about the NATO military attacks in Yugoslavia, Washington D.C. bureau chiefs say things have eased up slightly, but not enough to allow for proper coverage.

"This military operation started out with the most-closed and least- forthcoming information policy of any U.S. military operation I have covered in 24 years as a reporter," says Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times' D.C. bureau chief. "They are telling us that NATO is winning this war, and Yugoslavia is losing, but they are not giving us the evidence in the form of concrete fact."

Several editors and correspondents met April 29 with Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon and say they have started receiving more details about the military campaign in Kosovo and Serbia but contend that not enough specific information about individual air strikes is being released.

"I'm not terribly hopeful because they said weeks ago that this is a policy decision," says Sandy Johnson, Washington D.C. bureau chief for The Associated Press and one of six D.C. journalists who participated in the hour-long meeting with Bacon. "There are a lot of other things they are not telling us."

Johnson joined McManus and other journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NBC during the meeting, in which most participants say they were given assurances that their concerns would be considered, but in which no promises for more access were given.

"Ken Bacon was responsive to our concerns and said they would be considered," says Jackson Diehl, Washington Post assistant managing editor for news who organized the meeting. "I will wait and see what happens, but I am cautiously optimistic."

The journalists provided Bacon with a list of specific kinds of information they are seeking as the military campaign continues, including daily data on targets attacked, bombing damage, and the types of munitions, weapons, and planes used in each mission. Diehl also says they need more access to U.S. forces in the area, especially commanders, and the names of servicemen.

"During Desert Fox and Desert Storm, we were given regular updates on targets and flights and other information," says Diehl. …

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