Friday, August 28, 2009

Military Officials Are "Profiling" Reporters, Even Stars & Stripes

From CJR, yesterday (though the story was around elsewhere),
At The Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman flags a pair of stories from Stars and Stripes reporting that journalists who seek to embed with U.S. troops in Afghanistan are screened by a D.C.-based PR firm, which examines “whether their past coverage has portrayed the U.S. military in a positive light.”

Military spokesmen insisted to Stars and Stripes that the profiles are innocuous, and that, to the extent a journalists’ prior reporting is evaluated, it is for accuracy only. But those claims seem to be undermined by the preamble of one of the profiles obtained by the paper, which reads, “The purpose of this memo is to provide an assessment of [a reporter from a major U.S. newspaper] … in order to gauge the expected sentiment of his work while on an embed mission in Afghanistan.” In a subsequent story, the paper writes that "it remains unclear whether military commanders in Afghanistan have ever acted on [the firm's] suggestions about how best to steer journalists toward 'positive' coverage."

As it happens, the September/October issue of CJR—arriving soon!—contains a story by veteran Iraq correspondent Jane Arraf about how the U.S. military is now discouraging almost any coverage of the war there. After a period of openness during the “surge,” the military now offers “reduced access and reduced engagement with reporters” in Iraq, Arraf writes. And it's not just the embed process that's more difficult—simply getting information from the central press office has become a challenge. In light of that fact, news that the Pentagon is paying a PR company $1.5 million to pull together information on reporters—whether or not "rating" is occurring—is disconcerting.
It would seem that even reporters for Stars&Stripes itself are screened and profiled for their pro-war ardor.

2 comments:

Flying Junior said...

Really wasn't a very big surprise was it? I mean you could sort of tell the image the Pentagon brass was trying to cultivate just about the first time you saw one of these contemporary, fake journalists riding around in a Humvee with a big-ass gun mounted in the rumble seat. That ain't reporting in my book. What are you gonna do? Write up your report on house-to-house grenade tossing and random killing from your little office-in-a-tent?

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