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[] USA Today 12.12.02: Boot Camp Prepares Journalists For Iraq,

USA Today
December 12, 2002
Pg. 3D

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 
with Iraq.

''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 Pentagon.

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 
former commandos.

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 
for us.''

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 
military operates.

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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