The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War

By William V. Kennedy | Go to book overview

more than two reporters, both at the Pentagon, to cover U. S. national defense, worldwide, the same level of coverage accorded the Department of Agriculture.

Reuters was organized in 1851 by a group of newspapers in Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. It remains British-owned and thereby carries the burden of the Official Secrets Act. In the United States Reuters had concentrated, at least until the early 1980s, on business and financial news. In 1981 Reuters sought to purchase the weakening UPI, a merger that would have created a world journalistic enterprise rivaling the AP. However, Reuters abandoned the effort in the same year, leaving unresolved the question of how to deal with a major U.S. news-gathering agency that was subject, through the Official Secrets Act, to at least indirect control by a foreign government.

Growing pressure on regional U.S. newspapers for national and international coverage of greater depth than the wire services have traditionally offered has led major newspapers -- principally the New York Times and a joint Washington Post-Los Angeles Times-( New York) Newsday network -- to offer their own wire services. The result has been to discourage even further any AP efforts to provide reports and news analysis beyond its traditional fire-alarm level. Thus, the weaknesses of the major newspapers become increasingly the weaknesses of all, in particular with respect to weak and inadequate coverage of national defense.

Given that most of the American public gets most of its news from television and that television relies on the principal U.S. newspapers and the wire services for the greater part of the news it broadcasts, what assurance does that provide that the public is obtaining accurate, timely advance information as to the why and how of U.S. military wars and lesser military operations?

Are the twelve full-time journalists assigned to the Pentagon building by the networks, the national newspapers, and the wire services, none of them with specialized training or background for the assignment, sufficient to provide the American public with a comprehensive, timely, accurate assessment of the value received from a worldwide military establishment with an average active-duty strength of two million men and women?

If the answer to both of those questions with respect to routine, peacetime coverage is, to say the least, "doubtful," what is the assurance of comprehensive, timely, and accurate coverage in time of war?


NOTES
1.
Richard Leonard, correspondence with author, January-February, 1964.
2.
"The Associated Press: How It Came to Be and What It Has Become", promotional pamphlet, The Associated Press, New York, p. 2.

-71-

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The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xi
  • 1 - Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover A War 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Roots of Conflict 13
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Television: The Here, Now, and Obituary Medium 21
  • Notes 39
  • 4 - The Dailies: Shaky Bedrock 41
  • Note 58
  • 5 - The Wire Services: The Weakest Reed 61
  • Notes 71
  • 6 - The Magazines 73
  • Notes 85
  • 7 - Vietnam: The Watershed 87
  • Notes 104
  • 8 - Aftermath 109
  • Notes 125
  • 9 - Managing the "Right to Lie" 129
  • Notes 140
  • 10 - How to Defeat the "Right to Lie" 143
  • Notes 154
  • Epilogue 157
  • Select Bibliography 159
  • Index 163
  • About the Author *
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