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

By William V. Kennedy | Go to book overview

Newsweek's Colonel Hackworth, whose dissent from Army policies and the national strategy in Vietnam put him almost totally beyond the service pale, is about as extreme an example as is ever likely to be found of the trained officer without personal or professional attachment to his past. Yet, called upon to assess the role of women in the military, Hackworth could address the subject only as an infantryman, riveted by his personal combat experiences and unable to fully address an age in which dexterity in manipulation of electronic controls is of at least equal military consequence to the physical strength required of the infantry soldier. That female helicopter pilots performed effectively in the Persian Gulf War, while, by and large, the infantry brought up the rear in trucks and armored personnel carriers, simply did not fit in with Hackworth's lifetime mindset, and so was dismissed out of hand.

Faced, in the early 1980s, with the Reagan administration's plans for a huge military buildup, editors and Washington bureau chiefs, notably of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, turned to specialized defense periodicals for reporters who at least were familiar with the names of the programs and the Defense budgetary structure, albeit in almost all cases entirely lacking in familiarity with the U.S. armed forces outside of Washington.

Specialized periodicals, notably such as the Army, Navy, and the Air Force Times weekly newspapers and the monthly Aviation Week and Space Technology, continue to train entry-level and advanced journalists in the defense field. But with what the greater part of American journalism plainly takes to be the dawn of everlasting peace in the wake of the decline of the Soviet Union, those specialty periodicals and their staffs, to the extent they survive at all, seem certain to live in a world apart from such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, in all of which the general assignment reporter continues to reign supreme. Whatever the continuing economic benefit to management and the shareholders of this arrangement, the fiascoes of Gulf War coverage published by Newsweek and U. S. News, and by Time through omission, make it plain that it is the reader who is the loser.


NOTES
1.
Tom Donnelly, "Iraq's Heavy Forces Were Dismembered", Army Times, 23 March 1992, p. 37.
3.
John L. Steele, "The News Magazines in Washington", in The Press in Washington, ed. Ray Eldon Hiebert ( New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1967), chap. 5.
4.
Roger Doran, "Colonel Turns into a Journalist", Harrisburg, ( Pa.), Evening News, 3 September 1985, p. C14.
5.
The conclusions were the result of a "Women in the Army" study, hastily engineered at the onset of the Reagan administration, apparently in the expectation

-85-

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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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