|| What did you think of the media coverage
of the Iraq war?
It was a seminal event in reporting since
this war was unlike any other in terms of access and coverage
in “real time.” The Bush administration made an
effort to allow journalists to be embedded with the military.
In addition, correspondents were offered boot camp training
with the military. I would chalk this up as a very brilliant
move on the part of the administration if its motives were
to give the press as much access as possible.
||Regarding the actual coverage?
If you were watching CNN early on, you thought
we were losing the war. If you were watching FOX News, you
thought we were winning. What distressed me was a question
blurted out by Paula Zahn, while anchoring a CNN broadcast.
The puzzled anchor said: “Who declares victory –
the president or the military?” I shouted to the television,
Television covers war as they do political elections. It
is the horse-race mentality – that is, who is winning
and who is losing. The “turkey award” for war
reporting goes to Erin Moriarty of CBS News who wore a gas
mask during one of her reports from Iraq. Edward R. Murrow
would have choked. While covering World War II, he never went
into a bomb shelter.
The problem with television reporting from Iraq was that
reporters became stars, not the soldiers they were interviewing.
In Vietnam, correspondents talked to soldiers who directly
relayed their thoughts and feelings. In the most recent war,
reporters did the talking and interpreted what others said.
These days reporters and news anchors have become the story.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised when a group of
women correspondents from the Vietnam War came to one of my
classes and said they were embarrassed by their colleagues
||What about since President Bush declared
the war over?
The focus now is if we can build
a democratic Iraq and not get involved in another Vietnam
quagmire. Because of the Bush administration’s revelation
that Saddam Hussein was not involved in the 9/11 attacks,
Iraq is taking a lower rung on the news ladder. It is no longer
a win-lose situation, which media enjoy reporting upon.
How has reporting style changed over
During the founding years of our country,
the role of the reporter is what most politicians would like
it to be today. Their job was to improve what the politician
said. That was it. President Andrew Jackson’s policy
of economic and political equality changed America and news
reporting. News became a serious and most profitable business
as advertising developed. Jackson and the press at the time
embellished the true Miltonian philosophy that all people
should be subjected to different ideas.
In some respects we haven’t moved much from the 1830s
and the heyday of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst
in the early part of the 1900s. The bottom line is that when
people are left alone for long periods of time, what they
want to read is gossip and sensationalism. We saw it in 1690
with the first attempt at a newspaper. We saw it in the 1830s
with the advent of the Penny Press, and we saw it during the
New Age of Journalism in the 1860s.
This doesn’t mean that we haven’t had good journalism
in this country. It is the press that has brought to light
injustices, inequalities and malfeasance. We need the press
as watchdog on government. What was that old saying, “if
you scratch a journalist, you will have someone who considers
himself or herself as important as a U.S. senator.”
In some respects, they are more important. Our founding fathers
thought so. It is the only profession they protected.
Media have the greatest impact on society,
which is why I don’t understand why university students
are not required to take a media course. I take journalism
and author James Fallows’ work very seriously. He contends
that the way media report on politics has made us a very cynical
people in our regard for politicians. The result of such reporting
and resulting perceptions, he says, will eventually lead to
the end of democracy. I look at my job as trying to prevent
that from happening.