I’m torn as to whether “embedded journalists” are a good thing.
On the one hand, with today’s technology, we are getting a never-before-available view of the war. (One radio reporter I heard spoke of seeing a report on NBC about an artillery strike being requested on a particular position, then flipped to CNN and saw a reporter with an artillery unit talking about a large strike that had just been launched, and then flipped back to NBC where the first reporter was able to talk about the strike as it hit.)
Not that I’m worried that we are only seeing the small picture, fractured through lots of sets of eyes, mind you; the big picture is present as well. We are also getting a greater feel for the individuals involved in the war. And while embedding puts the journalists much closer to the action, the government thus also knows where they are so as to not worry as much about them.
On the other hand, while embedding puts the journalists much closer to the action, the government thus also knows where they are, which potentially gives a greater level of control over whom has access to what information. Embedding may also introduce a bias: by increasing the human factor, putting the journalists through the same training and billeting them right alongside the soldiers may taint what those reporters comment on. Knowing that they have to face these soldiers at mess and in the tents, the journalists will be unlikely to comment negatively on the units they are with, and may be less likely to comment negatively about anything related to the military.
A related concern is the connection made to those journalists themselves. Michael Kelly was the first embedded journalist killed during the conflict. For a day, his name and picture were everywhere (and then the ever-bored media moved on). But there had been a couple other, non-embedded and non-American journalists killed in the conflict before him. That was mentioned a couple times, but who they were and where they were from? Who cares, it seems. And how about the journalists killed in the attack on the Palestine Hotel? It turns out that they were from the Ukraine (working for Reuters) and Spain, but damned if you could find that out from the (radio) news broadcasts. They weren’t American and they certainly weren’t embedded, so they were hardly worth a passing mention.
Updated on July 21, 2010