Just As I Thought

That’s entertainment

Reuters (in its entertainment news section, no less) reports that the Pentagon is planning to allow reporters to accompany front line soldiers during the (Coming soon! Set your VCRs! Play along at home!) upcoming war on Iraq.

Some experts said the plan to “embed” reporters in the armed forces raises questions about journalistic independence.

“I think the verb itself is enough to make journalists uncomfortable,” said Robert Thompson, director Syracuse University’s Center for the Study of Popular Television. “It implies becoming part and parcel, and really implies in a more glib way going to bed with.”

Still, Thompson agreed that the media and the public would probably be better served than they were in 1991. “If the Gulf War looked like a video arcade, this might at least look a little bit more like what we think of as a war,” he said.

Other critics have suggested the arrangement could fuel perceptions, particularly outside the United States, that the American media covers the U.S. military like the hometown football team.

Network news executives acknowledge that the Pentagon’s latest overtures to the media are in part self-motivated.

And what corporate logos will be sewn into the soldier’s uniforms for this unique new reality programming?

There is a long history of journalists reporting from the front lines of war, most notably in World War II and Vietnam, where front line reporting did much to fuel anti-war protests. But in 2003, there is little “press” left. Instead, they’re the media. Their main product is just that – a product, to be sold to consumers hungry for more hype, more tabloid-style writing. The tv and cable networks already have logos, music, and graphics ready for the packaging of this upcoming war into an entertainment extravaganza. I can’t imagine that the corporate parents of these reporters will allow them to actually bring the horrors of war to their audience in such a way that it will make Americans question their President’s action.

I hope I am wrong. I hope that we don’t need to find out.

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