Media Coverage in the Vietnam War and the War on Iraq

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"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should be attended by a bodyguard of lies" – Winston Churchill. Ideally, the media has a responsibility of making sure that it does not happen. The media plays a crucial role in covering the war in the most objective, bias-free and truthful manner, even if negative stories have to be reported. In this essay, the comparison of media coverage between the Vietnam War and Gulf War II has four areas to cover, which are the freedom of correspondents, embedding, the reliability and quality of the coverage. The media also plays the role of a "watchdog" in observing the government closely and reporting their actions. With the U.S. in Vietnam, the American people wanted to be kept up-to- date. They now had the opportunity to follow the war via newspaper, radio, magazine, and television. While many families heavily relied on the coverage to keep them informed, voters relied on this coverage to keep them posted on the progress of the war. However, this coverage was often very "deathly."On television, the press exercised their freedom by displaying photographs or film footage of dead and/or wounded soldiers and civilians on a regular basis, during their evening news. This scenario was commonly known as, "Steak and potatoes with body counts," (Patterson, 1995). Photos shocked the nation, but became a common sight for the evening network news. Steven King summed up his description of Vietnam’s television coverage as, "Our daily dose of blood and gore." (Patterson, 1995).

The Vietnam War was a two-part war, the one the U.S was fighting in the fields and the war the media was fighting as well. But, what could have happened if the Vietnam War was fought under the same censorship and stipulation that the Gulf War was? "What if?" This is a question that many ask when it comes to the media’s coverage during the Vietnam War. What if the media were NOT granted absolute freedom? What if there was some means of regulation for the press during Vietnam, would that have made a difference? The big difference between the two wars is Vietnam contained no press censorship, where during the Gulf War the media had 12 rules they had to follow regarding all news coverage. These 12 rules stated; The following should not be reported because its publication or broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger lives:

1.For U.S. or coalition units, specific numerical information on troop strength, aircraft, weapons, systems, on-hand equipment, or supplies (e.g., artillery, tanks, radar’s, missiles, trucks, water), including amounts of ammunition or fuel moved by or on hand in support of combat units. Unit size may be described in general terms such as ‘company size,’ ‘multibattalion,’ ‘multidivision,’ ‘naval task force,’ and ‘carrier battle group.’ Number or amount of equipment and supplies may be described in general terms such as ‘large,’ ‘small,’ ‘many.’

2.Any information that reveals details of future plans, operations, or strikes including postponed or cancelled operations.
3.Information, photography, and imagery that would reveal the specific location of military forces or show the level of security at military installations or encampments. Locations may be described as follows: all Navy embark stories can identify the ship upon which embarked as a dateline and will state that the report is coming from the ‘Persian Gulf,’ ‘Red Sea,’ or ‘North Arabian Sea.’ Stories written in Saudi Arabia may be datelined ‘Eastern Saudi Arabia,’ ‘Near Kuwaiti border,’ etc. For specific countries outside Saudi Arabia, stories will state that the report is coming from the Persian Gulf region unless that country has acknowledged its participation.

4.Rules of engagement details.
5.Information on intelligence collection activities, including targets, methods, and results. 6.During an operation, specific information on friendly troop movements, tactical deployments, and depositions...
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