“Embedded journalist” seems to be the catchphrase of the day. And no one should be happy about it. The danger journalists are facing everyday to bring the war into the homes of citizens around the world and in the United States is unnecessary and should be re-evaluated by network executives.
War coverage has saturated almost every cable and local TV channel over the past twenty days as journalists scrambled to get overseas and in the thick of the action. However, all this coverage has become the sickest form of reality TV and made the brutality of war look like a movie of the week.
However, family members of some soldiers fighting overseas claim that they live for the coverage. But the chance of seeing a loved one is more than likely infinitesimal. While no one would deny these families comfort, is it worth the lives of journalists who are not as well trained to stay alive in battle like military personnel are?
Media coverage of war took on a whole new meaning during the Vietnam War. While initially it was done in hopes of gaining support for American troops, it instead made the fierceness and senselessness of the war more apparent to viewers. A top military official, as quoted on the vietnamwar.net Web site, said the Vietnam War was lost in living rooms. Extra TV coverage also did not help Operation Desert Storm, and it is a possibility that when the numbers are in, it will have the same effect on Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Media coverage of the war during World War II was top-notch for the time. Photojournalists traveled with troops, but not to the extent current reporters are. Headlines were still effective and the media still boomed, and support at home was huge.
The technology of the past 20 years — with the introduction of videophones and more extensive satellite networks — makes frontline war coverage possible, it doesn’t mean it should be used for this purpose. The deaths of journalists reporting should illustrate the danger of sending innocents into a war zone. Just because they’re on TV doesn’t make them invincible.