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[infowar.de] Pentagon to Begin Training War Correspondents
NATIONAL SECURITY: Pentagon to Begin Training War Correspondents
By DAVID WOOD, 31.10.2002 Newhouse News Service
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming years of resistance and suspicion on both
sides, the Pentagon and the news media have agreed to begin rudimentary
battlefield training for reporters, photographers and camera crews,
against the backdrop of a possible massive war with Iraq in the coming
The one-week field training sessions, which will begin as early as
mid-November, are intended to familiarize journalists with military
operations and how to stay safe on the battlefield.
Journalists will be taught battlefield first aid, basic land navigation,
tactical radio communications, how to dig fighting positions -- once
called "foxholes" -- and how to react to incoming fire. They will be put
through a five-mile road march with 25-pound rucksacks.
At a meeting Wednesday of Pentagon officials and news bureau chiefs,
senior military officers said they would let the bureau chiefs know if
any of the reporters seemed physically unable to work effectively in a
But Torie Clarke, the Pentagon's public affairs and media chief,
stressed that the training is not intended as a means for the military
to favor friendly reporters. "Absolutely, attendance is not a
prerequisite" for reporters seeking to accompany military units in
combat operations, she said.
"We are absolutely committed to ensuring reporters have maximum access
to our troops," Clarke said.
The bottom line for combat commanders is not so much philosophical as
practical, said Maj. Gen. Larry Gotardi. When journalists are trained,
"I'm not going to have to worry about you on the battlefield," said
Gottardi, an artillery officer who currently serves as the Army's senior
public affairs officer.
"When we're out there and we're trading shots with the enemy, you know
when to be quiet and when not to be ... I don't have to take time away
from my mission and put my soldiers at risk to make sure you're OK,"
There was enthusiasm for the training on the media side as well.
"I think it's a wonderful idea; I wish they'd proposed this years ago,"
said Sandra K. Johnson, Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press.
"I think every reporter who might cover a conflict overseas will benefit
from this," regardless of previous experience, Johnson said. "It puts
reporters who aren't comfortable with the military in a better position
to cover what they are seeing in front of them and what they're being told.
"More important, it shows military commanders that working with
journalists can be a positive thing."
More than half a century ago, American journalists covering the military
were put in uniform and sent out with the troops.
But fewer than 30 reporters landed with the troops on the beaches of
Normandy on D-day. In contrast, more than 1,600 journalists showed up to
cover Desert Storm in 1991, according to Army officers.
But as with Congress and the general public, the news media each year
have fewer veterans of the military, said Frank Aukofer, former
Washington bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and author of
several studies of military-media relations.
In a 1995 book co-authored with former Vietnam POW William E. Lawrence,
a retired Navy vice admiral, Aukofer documented a basic mistrust and
misunderstanding between the military and the news media that grew out
of the Vietnam War.
A survey of some 2,000 officers and 350 journalists found that 6 of 10
officers said their leaders could lie to the press in order to deceive
the enemy. Not surprisingly, 9 of 10 journalists thought that was
Given such historic antagonisms, Aukofer said, "I'm really surprised"
about the military-media agreement on training.
"But it makes sense -- for instance, in eliminating some of the
military's objections about having to deal with reporters who don't know
the difference between an M-16 (carbine) and an F-16 (jet fighter)."
The risk, he said "is that the Pentagon might use the training to
compile a list of favorites."
CNN / October 30: Pentagon to train journalists for war
The Guardian / October 30: Combat Class Offered to Journalists
EPN Newsdesk / November 05: Journalist Training For Iraq Conflict
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