Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From finding the news to having it given to you

Obligatory smartass rejoinder: No shit, Sherlock.
The journalists recalled that soldiers in the field welcomed reporters, would transport them around the country and respected them for facing the hardships and dangers in battle zones.

"In Vietnam, if you had the courage and the stamina, you could go anywhere," said [George] Esper, who spent 10 years in Southeast Asia and wrote more words on the war than any other reporter. He retired from the AP in 2000.

But the media's freedom to cover the war had some lasting harm, including journalists killed on the battlefield. There also was resentment from the military establishment, which didn't always appreciate what was written, the journalists said.
A troubling topic, this one. It's certainly true that the government has clamped down on the media since the end of Vietnam, which has had the ripple effect of creating a press corps that is either unable or unwilling to ask the questions that need to be asked. Every administration since has used a cloak of Byzantine legalese to keep from having to answer anything resembling a direct question. At one point it was thought that the old blogosphere was going to be the solution to this, but, of course, the prevailing attitude has evolved into "bloggers don't do their research and they're not accountable to anyone except themselves, so they're even less reliable than the mainstream media." The Dubyah Administration has been exceptionally obsessed with secrecy (even going so far as to reclassify previously-declassified documents en masse), but it's just continuing a trend that began once those last choppers left the Saigon embassy in 1975.

I can almost understand the government wanting to limit access to war zones, but at the same time, journalists today ought not to be so easily intimidated. It's not that they're not doing their job -- look no further than reports deunking the claims of Saddam Hussein's WMDs, or Iraq's so-called involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and so on and so forth -- but they're being beat at their own game by getting led around by the nose by a government that's figured out how to wrap the media around its grimy fingers. It has nothing to do with partisan bickering between parties; it has everything to do with the government's skill at manipulation and the media's distressing blind faith in seemingly everything they're told.

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