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[] WP: Media and Military Try Experiment in Openness,


Media and Military Try Experiment in Openness

By Susan B. Glasser
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 7, 2003; Page A14

MANGAF, Kuwait, March 6 -- The media army began shipping out today, loaded 
aboard a rented Mercedes bus with a No. 1 sign on its front window, bound for the 
northern Kuwaiti base of the U.S. Army's V Corps. A dozen or so journalists wearing 
cargo pants and toting the latest in satellite telephone technology were embedding, in 
the military's term, with units preparing to invade Iraq.

"You are going to get unprecedented access to soldiers in operations," said Capt. 
Tom Bryant in a pre-embedding pep talk. "You are just another person assigned to 
the unit, and you will see everything they see."

The reporters assigned to V Corps are part of a Pentagon experiment in military 
openness, running against the grain of three decades of mutual suspicion that often 
left journalists on the sidelines during U.S. military operations. If the United States 
goes to war in Iraq, the military promises access to the battlefield unseen since 
Vietnam, with Kevlar-wearing reporters sleeping next to soldiers and, at least in 
theory, reporting the action free of blanket censorship.

The Pentagon has agreed to embed 662 journalists, according to figures provided by 
the military here, a number far higher than originally planned. Col. Rick Thomas, who 
has been supervising the process in Kuwait for the Army, called it "a snowball effect."


For the news media, the endeavor offers the possibility of up-close coverage. 
Technology has advanced so dramatically in the dozen years since the Persian Gulf 
War that Americans may be able to watch combat live from the front lines and check 
in on the latest skirmishes in real time on the Internet.

For the military, the initiative could reengage the armed forces with the public and 
showcase what it expects to be a smashing victory. Instead of stories about civilian 
casualties told by reporters who were shut out of U.S. military operations in 
Afghanistan, Pentagon officials hope for stirring tales of combat heroics.

"We want to provide maximum access with minimum control," said Marine Maj. 
David Andersen. "The idea is by making you a part of the unit, you'll be a member of 
the team."


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