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[infowar.de] USA Today 12.12.02: Boot Camp Prepares Journalists For Iraq
December 12, 2002
The Media MIx
Boot Camp Prepares Journalists For Iraq
By Peter Johnson, USA Today
Departing from its policy during the Gulf War and invasion of Afghanistan,
the Pentagon may allow hundreds of print reporters, photographers and
television journalists to accompany front-line U.S. troops if there's a war
''We are absolutely convinced the more news and information that comes out
of Iraq -- if there's military action -- the better off we'll all be,''
Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told the Los Angeles Times.
''There are an awful lot of progressive military people at the Pentagon who
know that the only way to fight Saddam Hussein's propaganda is to get as
much open coverage as you possibly can,'' says NBC Pentagon correspondent
Jim Miklaszewski. ''Now, there's a concentrated effort to pound that into
the heads of the commanders.''
As war with Iraq appears more likely, many news organizations are ordering
staffers to attend either private, week-long boot camps or one offered by
The courses are designed to teach people who sit at computer terminals,
shoot photos or anchor from TV studios everything from how to blend into a
crowd and how to stop a wound from bleeding to recognizing different kinds
of artillery and reacting to a chemical weapons attack.
CNN anchor Aaron Brown is attending CNN's war camp near Atlanta this week.
He is one of more than 400 staffers who have attended a program that the
cable outlet contracted through the AKE Group, a British company staffed by
Though all TV networks and most news organizations have some form of
in-the-field combat safety training, CNN's -- required for anyone headed to
a war zone -- appears to be the most extensive.
''The medical stuff was really helpful. You like to believe people sitting
next to you (in combat) would know what to do if you got popped,'' says
Brown, a Coast Guard veteran.
But he says he found some of the military training, such as telling the
difference between an incoming mortar round and an artillery shell, a bit much.
''It sounds like ducking is a really good idea in any case.''
In light of the murder this year of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel
Pearl, reporters also must worry about becoming targets.
And CNN's Kelly Wallace, who went from the safe confines of the White House
beat to reporting from the Gaza Strip, says boot camp taught her ''how not
to make yourself a target, how to blend in, how to vary your routine so
that you don't stand out in any way.''
Last month, the Pentagon sponsored a safety and combat readiness course
that drew 57 journalists from 31 news organizations to the Marine Corps
training base in Quantico, Va., and then to Norfolk Naval Base.
The course is designed to help reporters ''understand the risks and
conditions associated with being with a unit,'' Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col.
Gary Keck says. ''The less time soldiers spend taking care of reporters,
the more they have to get on with their mission. It's a win-win situation
Keck hopes that the course -- 60 more reporters head to Fort Benning, Ga.,
on Monday -- will give news people a better appreciation for how the
In that sense, says CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts, who reported from
Afghanistan last year, the Pentagon's program has worked.
''Whether you're a hawk or a dove, once you deal with people who do it,
there's a new level of appreciation for them,'' Pitts says. ''It was
valuable to spend time with the young men and women who may have to do this
very difficult job. It's one thing to view a victory or a mistake by the
military from a distance. It's another when you can give some context to
it, when you understand how it came about.''
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