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Freedom of Press or Danger to Troops?

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Freedom of Press or Danger to Troops?

Steve Hess

Professor Olt

Communications I (ENG 102-ND)

20 March 2005

Steve Hess

Professor Olt

Communications I (ENG 102-ND)

20 March 2005

Freedom of Press or Danger to Troops?

The news has been an important source of information for as long as it has been around. News during a time of war is sometimes the only way a family member, friend, or general public have any idea what the soldiers are going through. Having this source of information can help rally support for our troops when they need all the support they can get. As reporters are granted more access to military operations the information they are provided, and have to report on, become a great responsibility and they should make sure to only make public what should be made public. Information is increasingly becoming the most important weapon in any militaries arsenal, so we should be more careful as to how that information is obtained and dispersed.

With respect to the war in Iraq and other military operations abroad I don't feel the press should be required to be given as much information or granted as much battlefield access as they have been. I am all for the freedom of the press and being informed as to what is happening to our troops, but to many times has information been distributed that could have had a negative impact on the outcome of an operation. One example is when Geraldo Rivera basically drew out in the sand on live television the position of the troops he was tagging along with. "Geraldo Rivera, reporting from Iraq for Fox News last week, drew a map in the sand, on camera, that gave away his unit's location" (Poniewozik 1). As he should have been, Geraldo was punished for that and told to leave Iraq and report from Kuwait. This was not the only example of this kind of reporting mistake made during that war.

Reporters often interview retired generals or other government officials to try and understand as much about the war and how the United States handles war. "At a Pentagon briefing, General Richard Myers blasted retired generals serving as news analysts for criticizing the Pentagon's war plans" (Poniewozik 1). In that example they didn't give away any secrets, but simply criticizing current war plans could be harmful for the troops moral and the averages citizens trust in the president. "Basing editorial decisions on what's "helpful" for troops and patriots may make for outstanding morale -- and probably even better ratings" (Poniewozik 1). Further consideration for what is being said should be given to prevent things like this from happening.

In future conflicts their will have to be greater ground rules and policies laid down for the media. The Iraq war, which was a first of its kind with embedded reporters, had some basic rules laid out. "Although all journalists will have to abide by basic rules for travel with the units, each commander will have the flexibility to restrict access based on need" (Strupp 1). "NBC News, and every other news organization that wanted to be embedded with the military, had to agree to some conditions to ensure that our broadcasting would not endanger the lives of military personnel or compromise military operations" (Verdi 1). "We can't jeopardize the safety of the journalist or the success of the mission," DeFrank said. "It will be up to each commander to decide how much access to combat the reporter will get" (Strupp 1). "We agreed that we would not broadcast the location and size of military units or identify the wounded and dead before the military could notify their next of kin" (Verdi 1). "Although not an iron-clad rule, DeFrank said the general policy will be that reporters can leave the unit with which they are embedded -- but may not be able to return" (Strupp 1). Although these basic rules were communicated and for the most part followed, I feel

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