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This situation was exacerbated by the widespread belief among military personnel that the news media, by emphasizing in print and pictures the enemy's foray into the United States Embassy in Saigon, had obscured the true dimensions of their victory in the Tet offensive in 1968.
That view was disavowed in a recent Columbia Journalism Review article by Charles Mohr of The New York Times, one of the most respected correspondents in Vietnam. He and other reporters, Mohr wrote, did not "give the embassy attack prolonged, obsessive coverage while ignoring the subsequent course of battle."
After Tet, reporters were often attacked by officers for giving false impressions. Flying in a helicopter with a colonel of infantry, I, for instance, was told that the val ley below us had been completely pacified we put down at one village to prove the point -but that "your damned newspaper and the damned TV make it sound like a hotbed of Vietcong guerrillas."'
The armed forces emerged from the Vietnam War psychologically scarred. They were embittered by their failure to defeat the Vietnamese because of what they considered political manipulation in Washington and, above all, by the media's treatment.
The inability of the military in the field to comprehend the intricacies of television journalism was one reason enmity reached such propor. tions. The military did not realize that prime time, no matter how important the material, is short, and that the electronic media's news editors are likely to pick the most sensational shots.
These photographs may be gory. War is gory. But to argue, as some officers still do, that such selections were made to intentionally reduce popular support for the war is nonsense. So is the contention that this support was lost in American living rooms. The Vietnam War was lost, if indeed it was lost in the milltary sense, on university campuses and in the Congress.
The search for truth begins with a skeptical attitude. Most reporters, especially those who have dealt with
governments, develop this attitude early in their careers. It is seldom encountered in government public-relations people whose jobs and careers depend on accepting and relaying what they are told by those in higher echelons. Newly designated press
officers receive instruction in how the media works at special courses conducted at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. Particular attention is paid to the media's prob lems of time and space, and how best to utilize that knowledge in presenting the military's position in the best possible light.
The military is not solely responsible for muzzling the press during the first days of the Grenada operation. Blame must also be attached to the Reagan Administration, which, though constitutionally in control of the military, abdicated that control when media accessibility came up for discussion before the operation began. It was James A. Baker 3d, then White House chief of staff, who accepted on behalf of the President restrictions imposed by the military on the media. He has since said he would do it again in a similar situation involving what he has called a "commando raid."
Danger to correspondents was cited by Baker and others as a reason for the exclusion. But reporters had gone on similar commando raids during World War II. They were also present during fierce fighting at Alamein, Tunis, Salerno, Anzio, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal and a hundred other battlefields in Europe and the Pacific. Danger is part of a war correspondent's job. Every reporter, every editor knows that. But they also know that battles have to be covered, and that the media, not the military, is the best vehicle for conveying what occurred.
What about military security? If the Administration feared that some correspondents selected to accompany the invading forces would reveal the facts in advance, there were ways to prevent that. A pool of correspondents could be taken to a military compound where they would be informed of what was
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From the Battlefield"
Feb.5,54 NYT May. Feb. 5,54
about to happen and assured that when the time came they would go in with the first wave. There are precedents for such an action. Before the raid on Dieppe during World War 11, for example, reporters were spirited away to Bath in England and kept incommunicado for four days before joining the units to which they had been assigned. This procedure was employed again recently by the British who, after keeping their press under wraps at sea, permitted reporters to go ashore with landing tearns sent to regain the Falklands from the Argentines.
Another excuse put about by the American military for excluding the press in Grenada was that some new techniques were to be employed in the invasion. If they were, they were not evident to knowledgeable observers. Dropping Rangers and airborne troops from 500 instead of 550 feet is not a new technique but rather a tactical change enforced by the exigencies of combat.
A Navy source has suggested that the use of the service's Seals (sea, air and land underwater demolition and landing teams) was an innovation. Again, nonsense. Similar operations by Britain's Special Boat Squadron were employed and reported on in detail during the Falklands operations.
The impression left by the American Government's reporting of the first two days of the Grenada operation leaves the distinct feeling that the objective was not to present the full facts of the matter but rather to make the most favorable impression on the public at large.
What if the operation had
whose servants are both the
military and any Administration, be fed pap churned out by the powers that be? Everything in our experience shows that even if they are they will soon discern the truth behind the headlines.
The continuing dispute over The present tendency to the restrictions placed on the muzzle the media is dangermedia in Grenada reached a ous. Democracies only win good deal further than that wars when they have popular tiny Caribbean island. This is support. That support can a period of limited, local wars only come from an informed - Grenada, Lebanon, the public. If there is censorship, Falklands any of which by then let it be flexible enough a combination of circumto tell the bad with the good. stances can expand into a If correspondents are killed, deadly serious conventional so be it. A lot of good men will war in which vastly greater die. These are dangerous forces could quickly become times. Only an informed involved. America will weather Can the American people, them.
Sunday, May 6, 1984
U.S. Bars Reporters
SAN SALVADOR, May 5 (UPI)-U.S. military officials say American journalists are not allowed to visit U.S. vessels participating in joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Fonseca.
It was believed to be the first time Pentagon officials had told journalists they could not observe American military war games in Central America.
"The American Navy is not embarking any newspapermen," said Col. Richard Lake, a Pentagon spokesman who yesterday turned down a request by United Press International and the The Washington Times to visit the exercises.
He gave no reason why the exercises, designed to improve the capacity of Honduras and El Salvador to stop arms traffic to Salvadoran guerrillas, were under a news blackout.
The U.S. Destroyer USS Deyo and the guided missile frigate USS Reid have been leading the joint exercises in which the Honduran and Salvadoran navies are participating.
The war games started April 26 and are scheduled to end May 7.
The media pool would be expect-
The formation of a media pool,
Burch said yesterday that De-
See PENTAGON, A18, Col. 1
THE WASHINGTON POST
Pentagon Plans Rotating Media Pool
PENTAGON, From Al
The other procedures include
The presidents of the newspaper
Existence of a reporters' pool
The top Pentagon spokesman
Burch also said he hopes to "ex
ercise the pool, calling reporters
Formation of a pool for emergen-
The panel, chaired by retired
"There was not sufficient public
As a result, exercise and contin-
Pentagon Forms War Press Pool; Newspaper Reporters Excluded
By RICHARD HALLORAN
Special to The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10- Defense Department officials today disclosed the makeup of a press pool the Government would form to cover the initial
stages of any surprise military operations. It would include news agency, radio, television and magazine reporters but not reporters from individual newspapers.
The news agencies to be included in the pool, Associated Press and United Press International, send their reports to newspapers as well as to television and radio stations. Representatives of many newspapers protested exclusion of their reporters and said they would call for revision of the pool planned by
the Defense officials.
Defense officials said the organizations to be represented in the pool, which was set up in answer to criticisms from the press over limits on coverage of the invasion of Grenada last year, had been picked by the Defense Department but that the news or ganizations could choose the correspondents. They said the pool should be ready to cover military contingencies
on short notice.
The officials said the Defense Department had proposed ground rules, similar to those used during the war in Vietnam, to govern the coverage. Those proposals are being studied by the organizations that have been selected and are not yet final, the officials said.
The pool would include two news agency reporters, one radio correspondent, four television reporters plus a camera operator and a sound techni cian, a still photographer and a maga zine writer, for a total of 11 neon!..
The Pentagon pool would be unusual in at least two respects:
Its composition would be deter
mined solely by the Government. Traditionally, Government agencies have established the need for a pool when coverage had to be restricted be cause of limited space or transmort, but worked out composition of the pool in cooperation with members of the press.
Newspapers have been left out. In most press pools in the past, representatives of all segments of mass communications have been included, with priority given to news agencies when space was severely limited.
The Pentagon officials said reporters from newspapers had been excluded because they thought the newspapers' needs could be filled by news agencies.
They also said the large number of newspapers made negotiating with them difficult.
Moreover, some officials said privately, senior Pentagon officials had expected more resistance to proposed ground rules for coverage from newspapers than from other news organizations because newspapers have usually taken more independent stands against restrictions.
The issue of coverage of military operations erupted a year ago when President Reagan ordered the Grenada invasion. At the request of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger prohibited coverage of the initial stages of the operation and permitted only limited reporting until it was nearly over.
That provoked a wave of protests from most news organizations, although polls indicated a majority of the public initially supported the exclusion. News executives cited the Grenada restrictions as a departure from a long history of war correspondence dating from the Civil War.
In response to the protests from news organizations, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., formed a panel of officers and journalists led by a retired Army public affairs officer, Maj. Gen. Winant Sidle, to take testimony from news executives.
Several Executives Astonished
Today several newspaper executives reacted with astonishment to the Pentagon's announcement of the pool and said they would seek revision of the decision.
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, said in a statement: "The Defense Department's plan to ban newspaper reporters from selected military operations is incredible. It reveals the Administration to be out of touch with journalism, reality and the First Amendment. "From the earliest days of this republic, newspa honorable relationship with our naper reporters have had a long and tion's soldiers. If any coverage any where does ever have to be limited, it is impermissible that Defense Secretary Weinberger should be the one to choose his favorites.
"The New York Times's duty to its readers will find us making strenuous
efforts to reverse this whole approach and this blatant act of discrimination."
The chairman of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, Richard J. V. Johnson, president of The Houston Chronicle, said in a statement: "We are pleased that the Department of Defense has taken the first step toward creating an effective contingency press pool for U.S. military operations. Obviously, a pool of 11 must include at least one experienced daily newspaper reporter and we have asked the Pentagon to make that correction promptly.
Seymour Topping, managing editor of The New York Times, said The Times intended to join other newspaper organizations in pressing for revi sions of the decision. "The special needs of newspapers in serving their readers cannot be fully met by news agency reports," he said.
Albert R. Hunt, Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, called the decision "outrageous and unacceptable," saying "the notion of not having a single newspaper in a pool is unprecedented." He added: "I have never heard of a pool arrangement that totally excludes newspapers. It would appear that they are not anxious to give any opportunity for in-depth reporting on this."
Benjamin Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post, said, "The Washington Post will do everything it can to report the news whether we are in any pool or not."
"Maximum Degree Ponsible'
directors of the American Association Reached in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where of Newspaper Editors opened a board meeting today, Richard D. Smyser, the association president, said: "I can't speak for the board, but my personal opinion is that there is a great vold there. I am certainly disturbed that there is no provision for daily newspapers. Our freedom of information com
mittee is here. It is fortunate that we are all meeting here to consider this."
In its report in August, the Pentagon panel said: "It is essential that the U.S. tions to the maximum degree possible, news media cover U.S. military operaconsistent with mission security and the safety of U.S. forces."
But the Pentagon's chief spokesman, briefing on that report that the Secre Michael I. Burch, made clear in a tary of Defense "can dictate a national policy on how an operation is covered." A news pool, Mr. Burch said, will added, "There will be some consultamore or less be selected by us." He tion, but the final decisions are ours."
The Pentagon officials said Mr. Burch met a week ago with the chiefs of television, radio, magarine and news agency bureaus here to lay out his deci sion and to propose a set of ground rules intended to provide security for military forces.