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War coverage: Timely or Amateur?

By jubal3 in Media
Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 03:44:55 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

During operations in Grenada, Panama and Desert Storm, the press howled about being cut off from the troops and the action. They seemed to have learned that sitting in a press briefing put on by the military does not make for accurate reporting. In Desert Storm, for example, the accuracy of US Precision Guided Munitions was greatly exaggerated by the military. This was almost entirely ignored until after the war, as was the fact that PGMs accounted for only a tiny percentage of ordnance used in the air campaign.

For Gulf War 2, the embedding of reporters with units, with large freedom of reporting from the front lines was an enormous change for the military and a great opportunity for the press. Unfortunately, inaccuracy and lack of perspective from the reporters and their anchors may make the military regret that decision, and not repeat it in the future. The result is that we will not get good information from the front, nor have the ability to do "fact-checking" on military press releases.

One of the Press' most important duties is to keep a steady eye on government in order to keep them at least relatively honest. Losing eyes on the ground would be a heavy blow to this role of the press. This is not to say the inaccurate coverage is the result of "liberal" media bias. It seems a lack of experience and perspective. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that the coverage isn't accurate.

Based on reports from BBC World Service, NPR (National Public Radio) and the web, including Reuters, AP, CNN, BBC, The Boston Globe, Al Jazeera and the Jerusalem Post war coverage seems wildly inaccurate.

Reporters seem to routinely miss details. Examples: Navy personnel, (grade O3; Lieutenant) referred to as "captain," an army rank. FA-18s referred to as "Tomcats" which are totally different aircraft with vastly different roles and capabilities. Small firefights called "Heavy resistance." The list goes on and on.

Now calling a plane by the wrong nickname may seem pretty trivial, but in fact, it's sloppy reporting. Reporters are usually expected to become something of an expert on their beat. The fact that the embedded reporters and worse yet "analysts" and news producers don't know this stuff really is important. As a reporter, knowing as much as possible about your beat serves as a "BS filter." Part of the job is to know when you're being snowed. If you don't know a damned thing about what you're covering, you are totally dependent upon your sources. If they lie to you, the lies get reported. Even if they are merely incorrect, you have no way to make a decision that the information is suspect and needs to wait for confirmation or development. With no way in the field to "second source," you wind up reporting inaccuracies, (sometimes big ones). So knowing the details about the ranks, the weapons systems and standard tactics is important. In government affairs reporting for instance, not knowing what a conference committee was would be considered outrageously incompetent. This very reasonable standard is being ignored with military reporting.

First: many of the embedded reporters and their editors seem to know nothing about the subject they are covering. No one who knew the subject matter would call the F-18, a Navy plane an Air Force plane. Second: they report impressions, not facts and do it on live television/radio. While it is very frightening to come under mortar fire, it does not necessarily denote "stiff" resistance." It indicates at least two guys with a mortar . (A cheap, easy to use indirect-fire weapon.) While there may be a company of soldiers supporting that mortar team, you don't know that just from the fact that you're having mortar rounds dropping around you. How many troops are shooting at you is important information to your story. Not knowing it when the feed is live is no sin. reporting a wild ass guess about the opposition as fact, is.

From the coverage I've heard/read, a lot of it seems to fall into this category. A reporter's unit comes under fire, and there frequently seems no accurate description of the nature of the fight. Was it 5 guys with AKs, or was it an infantry battalion? The first is trivial, the second is substantial. Other than mentions of the Republican Guards, I've heard only one mention of the strength of units which have offered opposition to US/UK forces until long after the fact. Yet we've all seen the Al Jazeera pictures and seen photos of reporters hunkered down under some type of fire.

Without characterization, there is simply no way for the average person to make an accurate assessment of what is going on. Are we winning or losing? What towns do we control if any? If not, why not? These are all important questions, the answers to which do not appear anywhere obvious. I've found some of the answers after digging, but the bottom line is, I shouldn't HAVE to dig. This is front page stuff. What comes across is dead Coalition troops, firefights and sandstorms. Add to that, so-called "Analysts" (Mostly pundits who wouldn't know an AK-47 from an M-16) making statements like "This is much more fierce than we were led to believe." And "This is going to be a tough fight." Based on what? I want to scream.

The "you are there" coverage recently in Um Qasr is a good case in point. The Marines secured the port, which was the primary mission, and reporters fed back "Um Qasr is under control of the Marines" which was only partially true. Next, when there was some minor resistance in the town, not the port, (I've seen figures denoting approximately 24 militia members running around with AKs and RPGs) it was reported as "Fierce resistance." What happened is that the reporter was caught, along with a patrol, in an ambush by irregular forces. Sensitive to both friendly casualties and civilian accidental deaths, the troops wisely pulled back, awaited reinforcements and very cautiously went about killing the resisting forces. Listening to the news, you would have thought a large battle was going on. In fact, it was a completely trivial bit of resistance, and caused not the slightest delay in operations there, because mines had to be removed from the harbor anyway. From the coverage, it was a "setback." Setback? Where? Based on what? What was delayed? Where? The answer is: nothing, and nowhere. Yet the impression remained.

The press and the military have had an adversarial relationship since Viet-Nam. There, the press sat on their asses all day waiting for the "5 `O-Clock Follies" in Saigon where they were spoon fed information from MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam), which they reported unfiltered. The other reporters seemed hell-bent on showing the US public how awful the war was. Neither approach was entirely accurate. And the military still blames the press for the decline of popular support for that ill-fated adventure. While there was some exceptional reporting in that war, it was the rare exception, not the rule. The impressions conveyed were largely inaccurate. Either pro or anti is not the point. The inaccuracy was the cardinal sin committed.

The Tet Offensive is a good example of the criticized press coverage of that war. Tet was such a surprise only because the press had been buying the "we have them on the ropes" stuff fed to them by the military, when casualty reports and good sniffing around would have showed a very different picture. Many reporters had been calling bullshit on the military for a couple of years. The mainstream press was so busy being shocked and outraged over having been lied to (Only possible due to their own poor reporting) that they forgot to mention that the Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese army were absolutely slaughtered in the ensuing fighting. Tet was exactly what Westy and the rest of the WW2 Airborne types had been praying for since 1965. A set-piece battle where US firepower could be brought to bear on an exposed enemy. Instead of coverage of the complete rout and wholesale destruction of the enemy, we got Walter Cronkite saying there was no hope of victory. Perhaps an accurate statement overall, but certainly not accurate in relation to Tet.

I don't want my war data fed to me by the Pentagon. But neither do I want to get "amateur hour" coverage by reporters who seem to know nothing. Hopefully the press will learn on the job and start getting out better quality news from the front. If it does not, the press will have only itself to blame when the military pulls the plug next time. And we will all be the worse for that.

Jubal has published numerous freelance magazine and newspaper articles since 1990 and worked as a newspaper reporter in Washington State. He has won several journalism awards. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.


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Is war coverage accurate?
o Yes 3%
o No 59%
o Only from Al Jazera 9%
o Only from Fox News 5%
o Only from The Revolutionary Worker 6%
o Who gives a damn, I want my "Friends" re-runs back! 4%
o War? There's a war? 11%

Votes: 175
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by jubal3

Display: Sort:
War coverage: Timely or Amateur? | 175 comments (152 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
nice. (4.66 / 15) (#2)
by pb on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 12:42:10 AM EST

I've heard it said that reporters are accurate unless it's a subject that you actually know something about. I cringe every time I read a reporter talking about computers, Linux, viruses, etc., etc. I'm sure the war coverage is at least as bad, especially when everyone is scrambling to cover it...
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
I feel exactly the same way (4.66 / 3) (#21)
by Subtillus on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 11:48:20 AM EST

Particularly about anyhting to do with science. The pople who write for Scientific american barely get it and the people writing for local papers are down right horrible.

What ever happened to inter-disciplinary competence?

[ Parent ]

Interdisciplinary Competence... (none / 0) (#116)
by SPYvSPY on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:51:12 PM EST

...died along with Bucky Fuller. (See my sig).

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

What I do... (4.00 / 1) (#137)
by bgalehouse on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 12:18:03 AM EST

I watch the Janes website and read the teaser articles. Frustrating that I cannot afford their defense weekly subscription, but even their teaser articles have more meat precision than CNN.

And you can bet that they get the aircraft identification correct.

[ Parent ]

Semantic trivia. (4.28 / 7) (#3)
by elenchos on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 03:19:44 AM EST

I wouldn't read too much into a reporter getting military lingo "wrong". While not knowing that the Navy grades don't have the same names as the Army is a genuine blunder, things like nicknames of weapons are not anything to go by. The Air Force's official nickname for the F-16 is the Falcon or Fighting Falcon. Hardly any airmen call it that. An embedded reporter with an F-16 squadron would hear them calling the planes "Lawn Darts" or "Vipers", and might never hear the word "Falcon" pass anyone's lips. The A-10 "Warthog" aka "Thunderbolt II" or B-52 "Stratofortress" aka "Buff" are similar cases. Arguably, a reporter who has never sat home reading Jane's to learn offical nicknames but who has learned the jargon from actual troops is a better source for us. The more interesting lesson here is on the psychology of an organization that feels the need to even have oxymoronic "official nicknames".

As far as expecting a reporter at ground level to know exactly how each isolated engagement he sees is realated to the grand scheme is as realistic as expecting an individual grunt to know whether or not we're winning the war.

This is perhaps the foundation of a real complaint: if everyone only pays attention to the lowest-level reporting, they are invariably going to get a distorted view. The press-briefing version, limited only to high-level reporting, in the last Gulf war, was equally distorted; perhaps worse.

So it isn't clear to me what the answer is. I don't see how ensuring that each and every reporter is a military semantics expert is going to change the fundamental problem, that reports close to the ground miss the big picture and that we can't trust what the leadership says. I suppose the fact is you can't have a war without misinformation any more than you can have a war without killing innocents. Offer what soulutions you will, but to me it sounds like a good reason to just not have a war. Or at least to stop and ask yourself what kind of country can't trust its own generals.


Thanks for the comment (5.00 / 4) (#4)
by jubal3 on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 03:41:17 AM EST

And I'll take into account when I do the edits.
The comment about getting the names wrong was indicative of a lack of understanding of the subject matter on the part of the reporter. Knowledge that in any other arena would be a matter of professional shame. Trust me, If a reporter called a County Attorney a "District Attorney" in Washington State, he'd be ridiculed in the press room for being so careless about getting to know his beat. It's their JOB to know this stuff. It isn't rocket science. I would have no problem with a reporter calling a B-52 a BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fucker). If they refer to it as a warthog, a totally difrerent aircraft, its an alteration of substantial fact. A B-52 does very different things than an A-10, and likewise, an FA-18, a multi-role attack aircraft and an air superiority f-14 fighter.
And perhaps I wasn't clear enough on the larger role thing. The reporters in Qatar are supposed to be doing the high level stuff, while the descriptions of who is doing what in an individual unit is for the guys on the ground. Similarly, News producers are supposed to be putting the big picture stuff together from a variety of sources.
My criticism is primarily that tactical stuff is taken out of context by news anchors and producers stateside. They should know better. And for reporters on the ground, if they can'rt distinguish between 5 guys with AKs and a rifle company, they are incompetent.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
B52 vs B2 (5.00 / 3) (#10)
by BenJackson on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:39:58 AM EST

Before the war started CNN was explaining that the B2 might get its first combat duty.  I was half watching it and they were showing file footage of a B52 on a taxiway.  Of course I latched onto the B52 and was trying to figure out how the hell they thought this was its first combat mission when they *said* B2 again.

Tonight the talking head was excited about footage from a carrier deck and commented on the big bombs (actually drop tanks) on the plane in the foreground.

It's amazing how easy it is to scoff at that and then still give credibility to any reports of POW treatment (one talking head accidentally said they had been executed in the streets in a ceremony but was quickly corrected) or local Iraqi reactions.

[ Parent ]

B2 (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by Merk00 on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 11:02:25 AM EST

That's even more stupid as the B-2 first saw combat duty in the Kosovo Campaign. So I wonder what CNN was actually thinking there?

"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

CNN (none / 0) (#87)
by ckaminski on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 12:34:10 PM EST

I've come to the conclusion, especially with CNN's War Anchors (Although Gen. Wesley Clark is pretty fun to listen to), that the only good thing about CNN is the fact that I have live WarTV(TM) coverage of the Iraqi invasion.  That's about it.  I wish that TV audio was in multiple tracks, that way I could turn off the talking heads, and just listen to the men on the ground.  

[ Parent ]
Oops, I forgot (4.75 / 4) (#5)
by jubal3 on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 03:47:17 AM EST

to mention. You have to know about the subject you're reporting on or you are totally at the mercy of your sources. -A very bad situation. You need to have some frame of reference to be able to tell when you're being fed a line of crap.
The fact that these guys don't know rank differences from one branch to another, nor air force planes from navy, is indicative that they don't know very much else about the military. That pretty much makes them ineffective as fact checkers OR good story tellers. -Unless the stories are fiction.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Nit (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by AtADeadRun on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:27:53 PM EST

That's twice I noticed you complaining about referring to an Air Force plane as a Navy aircraft; the example you cited in the text was FA-18s referred to as "Tomcats" which are totally different aircraft with vastly different roles and capabilities. They're both carrier-based, Naval craft (since the Corps also has some Hornets). If you're going to abuse yon reporters for inaccuracy...

Pain heals. Glory is forever. Keep running.

We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
[ Parent ]
ROFL (none / 0) (#46)
by jubal3 on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 06:16:25 PM EST

You're right. I should have said "Naval aviation" or something similar, which would have covered the Marines. *sigh*

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
I disagree (1.00 / 1) (#121)
by gdanjo on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:10:06 PM EST

There is a middle ground. How about this: Most reporters have more knowledge of the situation than you perceive by their reports. Sometimes editors will change things. Sometimes fact-checkers get it wrong. Sometimes the reporter, knowing his/her audience, decides not to waste time on minor details that they know won't make a whiff of difference.

The kind of reporting that worries me are a) the ones that do not even pretend to be unbiased (FOX news); and b) the ones that declare themselves the world's authority on Truth (CNN). Luckily we have other news outlets that attempt to be unbiased (BBC, but only for non-UK related stuff, SKY's pretty good too). The problem with these outlets is that they are perceived as being "boring" or "elitist."

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
[ Parent ]

I'll argue... (4.66 / 3) (#22)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 12:10:56 PM EST

Arguably, a reporter who has never sat home reading Jane's to learn offical nicknames but who has learned the jargon from actual troops is a better source for us.

Um, hardly. As someone with military experience that can spot the difference between a Super Hornet and a Hornet while they're flying, I at least expect the reporter to be able to see the differences between a T-55 and an M1-A1, or to know the difference between a MBT and an IFV when it is parked beside them.

The fact that all it requires to do this effectivley is to buy a $20 "Janes World AFV's" book that you can carry around in your pocket and match the friggen pictures shows the diregard and lack of professionalism that reporters show for their own chosen craft.

If they don't consider their own jobs worthy of accuracy, why should I consider anything they say as accurate?

A high school student would fail if he wrote a paper theat is as inaccurate as some of these reporters cover the military.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Official nicknames (none / 0) (#75)
by tetsuwan on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:34:15 AM EST

In Sweden, we have/had for example:

JAS-39 Gripen (The griffin)
SAAB 37 Viggen (The thunderbolt)
J29 "the flying barrel"

These three are primarily known by their nicknames, people in general refer to them by their nicknames and most probably do not know the model number.
The situation is probably the same in the US, just that the model number has become the common word to use.It's really no more strange than to have a modeln "nickname" on a car.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

In the U.S. (none / 0) (#130)
by nstenz on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 10:31:54 PM EST

It's really no more strange than to have a modeln "nickname" on a car.
That's especially true over here, since most of our cars do have actual names, not just model numbers (like your average European cars- Saab, BMW, Mercedes, etc.) =)

[ Parent ]
Republican Guard (5.00 / 3) (#13)
by alfadir on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 08:46:01 AM EST

I find it strange that US/UK troops keeps running into the eliteforces of the Iraqi military. I am not talking about the Republican Guard, which I thought was as elite you could get. At least remembering the first Gulf War.

Now, they use names of special units, Medinas, etc. that should be cream de la cream of Iraqi forces. The most loyal to Saddam. Fine. But all the american forces no matter where they run into stiff resistance are subject to these elite groups according to reporters. (CNN beeing my only american newssource). I found/find that very inconsistent. I mean how many of them are there..

actually... (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 11:41:11 AM EST

it's western media's assumption that "only the most loyal will fight us" that leads to ridiculous statements such as this.

Odds are the real republican guard is only around Baghdad.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Republican guard, etc. (none / 0) (#139)
by bgalehouse on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 12:27:11 AM EST

The Janes website explained in article excerpts a day or two ago that much of the resistance has been regular army units reenforced with some Republican Guards there to instill loyalty.

In the case of Basara in particular, the USUK claims that the regular army units are only holding the city because their families have been threatened. Though as Janes points out, this fits will with the USUK position that Saddam is bad, and hasn't been independently verified.

[ Parent ]

heh... (none / 0) (#48)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 06:50:46 PM EST

I think BBC just called the US 4th Infantry division "Elite".

There are no more regular soldiers, it seems.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

What always catches me... (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 08:12:55 PM EST

is when the press starts referring to the guerillas as fedayin. Everytime one of them says that I shout "Was Maud Dib with them?"

And then, of course, my wife hits me.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Damn! (none / 0) (#76)
by br284 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 08:23:03 AM EST

I knew that word was from somewhere else. Thanks for clearing it up for me.


[ Parent ]

I'm sure (none / 0) (#78)
by JahToasted on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:25:25 AM EST

That I heard a BBC reporter say "fedaykin" instead of fedayin. The spice^H^H^H oil MUST flow...

[ Parent ]
I have to ask (none / 0) (#90)
by yankeehack on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 01:27:33 PM EST

what pop culture reference is this?

No one who was bad in bed has ever been good in life (i.e. liberals, I've never had sex with a liberal woman who knew how to use her body.) Keeteel :-P I'm *right*!
[ Parent ]

Dune, by Frank Herbert. (none / 0) (#93)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 01:59:13 PM EST

A book set on a desert world, where the locals are descended from Sunni Muslims. In a somewhat prophetic novel, the hero recognizes the inate potential of the locals and turns them from oppressed victims to hyper-fanatical death commandos .

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Just not sure (4.50 / 4) (#14)
by Dphitz on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 10:41:04 AM EST

I like the idea of front line reporting but I usually wait a day or two to see what news is and isn't true.  Based on the headlines, the coalition forces have gained control of Basra several times.  Every source wants to be the first to scoop a story which leads to inaccurate, exaggerated or false reports.  But it's better than what the Pentagon will feed you.

I also see this coverage as being detrimental to support for the war back home.  Minute by minute updates and front line reporting brings us closer to what happens.  With 24/7 coverage it seems the war has been going on for weeks.  Now, every time a Marine is killed it's a main story.  My local news (southern California) has run a 5 minute story on every soldier wounded or killed who was based near-by.  All this is going to lower people's tolerance for a body count.  People who once supported the war may start to doubt it's purpose should the count reach 500.  (not to mention the dubious nature of this war)

God, please save me . . . from your followers

good article... (4.33 / 6) (#23)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 12:19:51 PM EST

All of it is true, and is a reflection of the standards of modern journalism.

If you think they're incompetent in the States, though, you should coume up to Canada... these guys (and girls) wouldn't know an M1-A1 was American if it had a giant US flag painted on the side of it.

The best reporters, of course, are the Brits though. Although they make mistakes as well, they are usually minor, and have at least the common sense to say they are unsure of something, instead of just making wild speculations.

I read yesterday on some news site that some Private was from the 7th Company Brigade. I know cadets that can do a better job than that.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

best reporters (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by prgammans on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:03:30 AM EST

The best reporters, of course, are the Brits though. Although they make mistakes as well, they are usually minor, and have at least the common sense to say they are unsure of something, instead of just making wild speculations.

If the birtish reporters are the best then i'm glad i don't hear the worst. BBC reporting is still one-sided and very opinionated. News reporters should report the FACTS not there opinions. I'll admit it's hard to be objective but that is what there are payed to be anything else is an abuse of there trust.

It get worse though if you look at reporters for the news papers such as the SUN. It makes the BBC look like saints.

This is becoming more and more important when you see the political power a paper/tv station has. There are a non elected body, but have huge political powers. The worst thing is that because they have this independent status and seamingly nothing to gain they can push they opinions as a balanced and fare veiw.


[ Parent ]
Wel... (1.00 / 1) (#129)
by zocky on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 10:17:39 PM EST

News reporters should report the FACTS not there opinions.

Well, that's a load of rubish. Of course journalist should report their opinions, that's what "public debate" means. BUT, they should make absolutely clear what info is provable facts and what is their opinion. BBC reporters from the ground seem to be quite pedantic about that, but over all, BBC is still biased, as is any other news source giving any credibility to agency reports that are right now full of BS.


I mean, if coal can be converted to energy, then couldn't diamonds?
[ Parent ]

Amazed (1.33 / 3) (#28)
by etherdeath on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 04:14:37 PM EST

at your ability to go on and on without any references.  You people are true thinkers and philosophers.

Huh? (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by jabber on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 04:25:59 PM EST

Is it the lack of hyperlinks or publications that bothers you? The author makes it clear that he is writing from personal experience.

The style may warrant a reclassification to Op-Ed on these grounds, but the case made seems very rational.

What "references" would you like, beyond the examples given?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Personal experience excludes references? (none / 0) (#33)
by etherdeath on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:00:57 PM EST

Reporters seem to routinely miss details.

If it's so routine, you should be able to provide some links.

[ Parent ]

Actually (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by jubal3 on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:24:00 PM EST

the one hyperlink I had got blasted in the transition from Edit to Vote.
Also, a lot of the examples were reported on BBC World Service and NPR.
In the link above, the reporter calls a Navy F-18 an Air Force plane, and further makes speculation about the source of mortar fire, without atribution.
"Yet again, the soldiers came under mortar fire, possibly from a militia truck they had seen escape earlier in the morning."
How the hell does he know where the mortar fire came from? Did the soldiers make that guess? If so, it could be ACCURATELY written as: Yet again, the soldiers came under mortar fire,McClary speculated it was from a militia truck they had seen escape earlier in the morning.

When speculating, it's generally important to attribute the speculation. The reporter isn't supposed to insert their opinions as to the possible. This is really a fairly minor nit, and the least egregious of the things I've heard. Only the fact that it came from the reporter and made it past the editors of Newsweek magazine makes it really noteworthy.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
That sucks (none / 0) (#47)
by etherdeath on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 06:35:16 PM EST

sorry to hear that.. maybe you wouldn't have gotten blased if you provided a variety of links?  who knows.

[ Parent ]
yup... (none / 0) (#32)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 04:50:32 PM EST

independent thought processing... it truly is amazing.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
More amazing than that is (none / 0) (#35)
by etherdeath on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:10:58 PM EST

that you people fool yourselves into believe that.

[ Parent ]
he's a journalist (none / 0) (#38)
by blisspix on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:17:01 PM EST

when have you ever seen a journalist cite references in a news story! Thus, he's writing what he knows!

[ Parent ]
I have seen it (none / 0) (#57)
by etherdeath on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 09:31:17 PM EST

Maybe not very often, ok.  He is writing what he knows, but that comes from some place, and he makes several general claims.  He may be a professional journalist, but on K5, to me, he's just another guy expressing his opinion.  And mostly vote that stuff down, unless the opinion has some references to show how he might have gotten to that opinion.  Otherwise it comes off as him expecting us to take his word on it because he's so damn clever, which he may be.

[ Parent ]
What's the point of references? (4.50 / 2) (#56)
by BenJackson on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 09:01:39 PM EST

I could Tivo an hour of Headline news, and then pick it apart for things like bad translations, misapplication of nicknames, confusion of Army and Navy ranks, ties that don't match the shirt, etc. But can we reason from that error rate to one for facts that really matter but that I am unable to check?

For example, this morning I heard CNN report several times that Iraqi soldiers had placed bombs on bridges leading into Baghdad, a "terrorist tactic". I can snort at that characterization and cite 100 incidences of regular army units blowing up bridges (including Americans, of course). But I can't tell you if there are really any explosives on bridges leading into Baghdad, which is all I really want them to get right.

Or how about the report that a column of armor was attacked by "rockets[,] like TOW missiles, which are wire guided and have a 4 mile range". Do they mean the enemy has wire guided missiles with a 4 mile range, or are they just reminding us of our own capabilities? Or was it, in fact, just RPGs and the reporter couldn't tell.

[ Parent ]

References (5.00 / 2) (#58)
by DarkZero on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 10:52:47 PM EST

One of the problems inherent in a story about bad reporting is that cable and network news reporting is not archived (I long for the day when video is as readily available as text on the internet, but it's not here yet) and text articles on news sites have a tendency to be fixed instead of retracted, leaving no trace of the original error. To find evidence of mistakes in journalism, you have to rely on either anecdotes or articles from one news agency criticizing another, and the latter doesn't appear very often because it's seen as crass and self-serving.

[ Parent ]
Embedding (3.75 / 4) (#30)
by duxup on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 04:36:47 PM EST

I'm confused, is the criticism here directed at the act of embedding reporters in units, or just the reporters being stupid?  I don't see how embedding the reporter causes them to get warplane nicknames wrong.

I commented on this somewhat in my diary after reading a BBC editorial about the number of reporters tied to units and otherwise.  I noted:

I have to agree it is interesting the paradox between being close to the war and the soldiers fighting it, and maintaining their objectivity.  Still I think sticking with a unit and growing close to them is not a bad way to report a war.  A reporter must still be aware of their prejudices and such, but disconnecting yourself form everything and walking around reporting "marine in foxhole fired 3 shots, marine in next foxhole fired 1 shot" doesn't do much either.

In the end no single reporter can provide an over all view of the war, and those sticking close to units provide an important part of that story.  Of course, the reporters I've known always think they can tell the whole story, and usually think they should be the only one doing it for their particular organization.  Just one of those weird things about news reporters.

You're missing the point (5.00 / 4) (#34)
by jubal3 on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:08:01 PM EST

The criticism is aimed at reporting inaccuracy. Embedded reporters is a great idea. The fact that the reporters are ignorant of their "beat" leads to inaccurate reporting. Since mistakes at this level would be blasted when covering issues like government affairs or crime, why are they ignored when it comes to military coverage? Are the facts less important when people are dying than when the congress votes for a new wheat subsidy?

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Circle Jerk (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by Meatbomb on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:05:56 AM EST

I agree with your comment entirely. The problem is that the anchors don't appreciate / accept the limited reporting ability these embedded folks are able to provide.

So you get bullshit like the CNN anchor asking embedded Biff, with a column moving on Bahgdad, "Biff, what do you know of the breakout from Basra? Are they moving against the Al-Faw penninsula?"

"Well, from what I understand [from what I just saw you say five minutes ago] they are indeed preparing a counterattack."


Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]

The only problem with embedding (4.50 / 2) (#100)
by ethereal on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:48:12 PM EST

is that the reporters are starting to really identify with their units. I'm concerned that this is causing them to be somewhat one-sided in their coverage. They're not covering the whole war; they're covering the part that's behind the U.S./U.K. guns.

Whether this was intentional or accidental, I think it will turn out to be a great deal for the Pentagon in terms of fostering their idea of how the war is going. Sure, for a couple days there the reporters were very disheartened, but over the long run they're going to build a lot of identification with the USUK troups.


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Print versus televised (4.50 / 2) (#31)
by ensignyu on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 04:42:13 PM EST

We had a career day at our school and I attended a lecture/Q&A by the vice president of the news department of a fairly large print-media company. He expressed similar concerns and said that the newspaper strives to sift through the individual reports and get a broader perspective.

Unfortunately, television and radio tends to do more cut&paste editing and in a hurry as well.

Actually, I've stopped watching television for war news, because it just repeats itself over and over during the day. With the newspaper, I can read what happened after things have been sorted out (no "I-think-they-may-be-moving-out-now. lets-go-check-with-the-commander") and in more detail as well.

Beats died a long time ago (5.00 / 5) (#36)
by blisspix on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:15:43 PM EST

The era of the beat reporter is long over. The way news is now constructed does not allow enough staff to become specialists at anything, unless they work for niche publications. Nowadays, a news story that you read in the newspaper may have been put together by 6, 7, 8 people, using wires, interviews, Internet, databases, researchers, etc etc. Mistakes happen because journalists don't have the time to check copy, they often have to assume that the Reuters feed is right when it comes to terminology and minutae.

I just finished a Master's thesis which in part looked at self-evaluation of stories by journalists. They just don't get time to do it, and thus don't truly learn that they have made mistakes either in their search for data sources or in facts. This happens with all kinds of reporting, but especially with technical reporting in military, sciences etc where it is likely that no-one in the newsroom will have that expertise.

End result? If you see a mistake on air or in a newspaper, write in and tell them to correct it. It's the only way they'll know.

Perhaps, (none / 0) (#44)
by jubal3 on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 05:48:11 PM EST

but that has not been my experience. While I wrote everything from "puff" pieces to government affairs coverage, I concentrated on crime and government. That meant a lot of time hanging out with the cops and with city officials.
I was at a press association meeting about 6 years ago, in which legal coverage was discussed. In the round table discussion, one of the editors said that if his reporter couldn't find the dollar amount of a "sealed" judgement, he would fire the reporter. The editor pointed out that his legal affairs reporter (as in courthouse "beat") should have developed sources in the courthouse.
"Beats" in broadcast media is something altogether different, and from my lack of experience in the field, I can't speak to it.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Nonsense. (none / 0) (#114)
by SPYvSPY on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:49:33 PM EST

How do explain someone like Michael Gordon of the NY Times?

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

I saw something like that too... (4.40 / 5) (#45)
by Zarniwoop on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 06:14:54 PM EST

No one who knew the subject matter would call the F-18, a Navy plane an Air Force plane.

On one of the cable news stations (I can't remember whether it was CNN or Fox News), there was a reporter at an airfield watching a F/A-18 come in. As it rolled by, he was talking about how it was an A-10. I guess I'm an aircraft pedant, but I have no idea how someone could mistake an F/A-18 for an A-10. I mean really, if the gatling gun on the front, the enormous engines, the twin tail, and the straight wings don't tip you off... ugh...

It kind of reminds me of this top-notch reporting on the Space Shuttle.

I don't know if the blatent inaccuracies are a result of embedded reporting -- it seems more like the usual incompetence that happens when you get an expert out of their field. However, I can definitely see how the reporters may lose perspective. What a reporter considers "heavy fire" might be a light fight for a Marine.

it's like confusing a warthog with a hornet... (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 08:05:18 PM EST

Sorry, I couldn't resist. There was a time in my life I dreamed of flying a warthog. They're just so butt-ugly and mean looking, compared to every other super-sleek aircraft out there...

Ahhhh. The A-10. Nothing like strapping two engines and a chair onto a big-ass cannon...

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Yep.. (1.00 / 1) (#94)
by reflective recursion on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:03:05 PM EST

Not to mention getting to pollute the land with toxic depleted uranium ammunition. Of course, these are all precise weapons which leave no harmful effect on the environment and have no connection whatsoever with the Gulf War Syndrome. What's that you say, Mr. Bush, about Gulf War II Syndrome? I can't quite hear you...

[ Parent ]
Blah, Blah, Blah. (none / 0) (#97)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:10:59 PM EST

Stop intruding facts into my penis extension fantasy.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
actually... (none / 0) (#112)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:04:41 PM EST

the depleted uranium crap seems to be surefacing as another myth... what seems more logical is that chemical or biological weapons were used, and covered up.

Consider that the US has been using DU munitions for years in training, with no adverse effects, and the "posioning" theory falls apart.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

So.. ? (1.00 / 2) (#134)
by reflective recursion on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 11:41:57 PM EST

And the US was testing nuclear bombs for years with no adverse effects---BUT they later looked into long-term environmental effects and the effects of fallout (particles which travel via wind).

After years of research it was finally discovered that nearly all 48 mainland states suffered uranium pollution--due to the testing of bombs in New Mexico, Nevada, etc. There was also increase in related diseases, such as cancer. Makes sense why nuclear testing is a big international issue these days, no?

Given that the half-life of depleted uranium is around 4.5 billion years, I do expect long-term illness.

I do suppose the US has the benefit that their nuclear waste is being transported to the Persian Gulf, by way of ammunition, in any case.

[ Parent ]
Shoot yourself in the foot... (none / 0) (#113)
by qbwiz on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:28:15 PM EST

Who was this ammunition being shot at, the Iraqis or the Americans? I may be wrong, but I'm guessing that it was the Iraqis. Did they vaporize into smoke that the American soldiers breathed? If not, how could they be causing problems?

[ Parent ]
well.. (1.75 / 4) (#132)
by reflective recursion on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 11:10:05 PM EST

If you read the links provided, or perhaps google'd yourself, you would find out much more about it. The US uses depleted uranium ammunition (basically nuclear waste/by-product) because of various properties of it: 1) it is cheap (free, actually) 2) it is heavy enough to cause "acceptable" damage.

For more information:

Depleted Uranium: How the Pentagon Radiates Soldiers & Civilians with DU Weapons
Aftereffects of Hiroshima and general environmental damage due to nuclear-based weaponry
How the US Depleted Uranium weaponry works

This is no myth, as the other poster claims. It is a environmental disaster of massive proportion. Basically it works like this: uranium filled shells from tanks and A-10 aircraft hit a target. The ammunition explodes on impact sending radioactive dust into the air. If you have been watching the news lately, you can just imagine what kind of hell something like the duststorms of the past days would bring upon the environment of Iraq. I'm sure if the wind changes direction and heads to Baghdad and thousands die, it will all be the Iraqi's own fault in some way. At least that will be what CNN reports.

"DU is more of a problem than we thought when it was developed. But it was developed according to standards and was stocked very carefully. It turned out, maybe, to be wrong"
- Dick Cheney, 1996 UK film "Riding the Storm"

[ Parent ]
Right. (none / 0) (#145)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 07:55:31 AM EST

Last time I checked there was *zero* relationship between the after effects of a nuclear blast and depleted uranium. The fact that you have to drag hiroshima into it just shows your ignorance of physics.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Uh, no. (1.00 / 2) (#149)
by reflective recursion on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 09:10:01 AM EST

Perhaps you need to re-read my statement:

Aftereffects of Hiroshima and general environmental damage due to nuclear-based weaponry
Keyword: general
Key phrase: and general environmental damage

Maybe it's time you actually read the article rather than spewing uninformed criticism. And do learn to comprehend sentences. It makes your argument look just a little more valid (and, what exactly is your argument against the evidence? None, I assume).

[ Parent ]
Maybe you should read the articles. (3.66 / 3) (#157)
by BlaisePascal on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 05:58:03 PM EST

The article about Hiroshima and the general environmental damage due to nuclear-based weaponry is a non-sequitor.  Not only does it utterly fail to mention DU, but DU-rounds aren't considered to be nuclear-based.

Depleted Uranium is a by-product of the nuclear weapons and nuclear power industry.  1000kg of natural uranium contains 993kg of U-238 and 7kg of U-235.  To make a uranium-based nuclear bomb or a uranium fuel rod for a nuclear power plant, they need a much larger fraction of U-235 in the final product, so they separate, as best they can, the U-238 from the U-235.  If they are trying for a 50% enrichment (for instance), that means they are likely to end up with a 12kg block of enriched uranium containing 6kg U-235 and 6kg U-238 and a 988kg block of depeleted uranium containing 987kg U-238 and 1kg of U-235.  Since U-235 is more radioactive than U-238, the 12kg block is fiercly radioactive, and the 988kg block is slightly less radioactive than the original 1000kg block.  So even intially, DU is less radioactive than natural uranium.  For its radiological effects, it's somewhat worthless.

But we weren't talking about nuclear bombs, we were talking about busting tanks.

The original way to bust open a tank was to hit is hard and fast with a big lump of metal, like a lead bullet or a bomb, or similar.  The big lump of metal could have an explosive in it to add to the effect.  This worked for a while, but tank makers started adding heavier and heavier armor to the tank, so it became impossible to break it open this way.  It isn't uncommon for the armor of some tanks to be steel plate over 30cm thick.

So the guys trying to bust open tanks came up with other solutions, like shape-charged anti-tank weapons.  These weapons exploded before the hit the tank, and the explosions were channeled inward, towards the core of the weapon (not at the tank), compressing a copper slug to for an extremely dense, extremely hot, fast moving "wire" of copper that would have enough energy to simply burn a thin channel into the tank, through the steel plate.  If they made it inside, they would cause enough damage flying around to bust the tank open.

The trouble is that this worked, as long as the copper wire wasn't disrupted while it was doing the job.  The solution, for the tank armorers, was bizzare in its conception: reactive armor.  Mounted on the outside of the tank were small packets of explosives, covering the surfaces most likely to be hit by an anti-tank round.  They were designed so that when the shaped charge went off and the copper was burning through them, they would go off.  They weren't powerful enough to damage the tank, but the explosion would disrupt the shaped charge, and the AT round would fizzle.

The most fool-proof way of greaking open a tank is to hit it with something that has a tremendous amount of kinetic energy concentrated in a small area.  You'd want to hit the tank with something with a small cross-section, moving fast, and extremely massive.  This isn't an easy combo to get.  To get the small cross section, you'd want a narrow cylindar.  TO get the mass, you'd need something very dense, or something very large, etc.  You also don't want it breaking up on impact, so you need something very hard as well.

That's why they went with DU.  Uranium has a very attractive combintion of density (specific gravity of 19), hardness (3rd hardest natural element), and availability (there is a whole industry that generates high-quality depeleted uranium as a waste by-product).

That's all the properties the military wants or uses out of DU:  it's dense, hard, and cheap.  That it is radioactive is more of a drawback than a benefit.  That it is extremely reactive and dust will spontaneously catch on fire at the slightest provokation is a drawback (it makes machining the stuff a rightious pain in the ass).  But it's harder, denser, or cheaper than any reasonable alternative.  Lead is cheap, but possibly not as cheap, and much easier to work with.  It's got about 55% the density of DU and its hardness is a joke.  Gold has a similar density, but is less hard than lead and is no where near cheap.  Platinum is even more expensive, but is denser.  Tungsten is the best match, in terms of density (slightly denser than DU) and hardness (harder than DU), and is easier to work with and isn't radioactive.  But there's a bigger available supply of DU.

There are health issues surrounding any heavy-metal penetrator, including lead, tungsten, DU, etc.  The radioactivity doesn't help.  But we aren't talking about nuclear weapon fall-out, or massive amounts of secondary radiation products, or any of the other environmental concerns that you'd find with full-fledged nuclear-based weapons.

Linking DU effects with nuclear weapon effects is fear-mongering and dishonest.  I only hope it was done out of ignorance than intent.


[ Parent ]

Hooray! (none / 0) (#160)
by jubal3 on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 12:08:34 AM EST

Finally a little accuracy. I recently read a report on the subject, forget where or I'd include the link. They had actually measured an increased rate of cancers with DU---IF YOU'RE IN A TANK/VEHICLE THAT GETS HIT WITH A DU ROUND. So, instead of dying in the initial attack, which was the intent, you get to live another many years, and have your life cut short by cancer -AT WORST. Beats hell out of gettting flayed alive by the initial impact.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Oh please. (1.00 / 2) (#161)
by reflective recursion on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 12:32:41 AM EST

It was an article about the effects of radiation. Only slightly about the cause of it. I never said DU munitions had anything to do with nuclear bombs. The environment effects, while not as dramatic, will be similar. In all cases, whether nuclear waste, nuclear weapons, or DU weapons, you are still playing with uranium--which is still radioactive no matter how you look at it. The article is only roughly about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is also about nuclear power waste and more. But you wouldn't know about that because you probably never clicked on the little link.

It is only misleading if you completely ignore the fact that I was being true to the theme of the article linked to. Want me make it more clear for you?

Radioactivity and the Environment

There you go. Now we can all go about our business completely ignoring articles linked to and simply rely on what the hyperlink tells us.

[ Parent ]
Thank for proving my point. (4.00 / 1) (#158)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 08:16:05 PM EST

Please go read a nuclear physics text book and come back when you understand what radiation actually is and is not.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Ohhh yeah. (1.00 / 2) (#162)
by reflective recursion on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 12:41:24 AM EST

Like you even had a point to make. I'm pretty sure I grasp the concept of radiation. I'm not quite sure you have a firm grasp of the English language or argumentation. Little hint: it involves providing evidence and stating a counterargument, rather than petty name calling and belittling.

[ Parent ]
What point? (none / 0) (#166)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 10:13:07 AM EST

The *point* is that you keep (a) conflating nuclear chain reactions with the natural radiation generated by natural uranium and (b) you blindly assert that depleted uranium is somehow dangerous when, in fact, the whole point of depleted uranium is that it consists entirely of inert isotopes of uranium.

In other words, you treat fundamentally three different phenomena as if they were the same thing, and have the nerve to think being told to read an actual book to be "belittling".

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
You're confused. (1.00 / 1) (#167)
by reflective recursion on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 02:28:30 PM EST

I never asserted, implied, or suggested that nuclear reactions have anything to do with DU or DU munitions. I gave an article which covers much much more than just nuclear bombs. If you read the article, you would see. Instead you, ignorant as always, comment on something completely unrelated to information I gave or statements I made. The article's theme is Hiroshima. Read it and you will see it covers much more than that.

Uranium is uranium, whether it remains after a nuclear blast, nuclear waste, or comes from DU-based ammunition. And just for the record, I do know that DU (uranium-238) is less radioactive than uranium-235.

you blindly assert that depleted uranium is somehow dangerous
I don't blindly assert anything. If you don't want to take my word for it, try this:
Depleted uranium is chemically toxic. It is an extremely dense, hard metal, and can cause chemical poisoning to the body in the same way as can lead or any other heavy metal. However, depleted uranium is also radiologically hazardous, as it spontaneously burns on impact, creating tiny aerosolised glass particles which are small enough to be inhaled. These uranium oxide particles emit all types of radiation, alpha, beta and gamma, and can be carried in the air over long distances. Depleted uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years, and the presence of depleted uranium ceramic aerosols can pose a long term threat to human health and the environment.
Read more here.

Try disputing the proof of what I give, rather than nitpicking the title of a link I gave (which isn't the title I would have used, but is closer to the initial theme of the article and the title of the article).

[ Parent ]
Gee, I must be confused. (none / 0) (#168)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 06:43:01 PM EST

It wasn't you that wrote "The ammunition explodes on impact sending radioactive dust into the air."

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
You like to nitpick, eh? (1.00 / 1) (#169)
by reflective recursion on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 10:55:05 PM EST

A DU rod is very dense. At high speed, it slices through tanks like a hot knife through butter. It burns on impact, creating flying bits and dust that are toxic and radioactive with a half-life of 4.2 billion years.
Read here. Perhaps "explodes" was a bit too extreme, but the principle is the same. I don't have time for nitpicking morons with nothing to add to the discussion.

[ Parent ]
LoL. You're funny. (1.00 / 1) (#170)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Mar 30, 2003 at 05:24:36 PM EST

A half-life of 4.2 billion years? Do you realize that the half-life of an isotope is inversely proportional to it's radioactivity? BTW - here's a pop-quiz: What's the half-life of common elements like carbon?

In other words, I have no fear at all of eating with DU tableware, or building my house with DU-based girders.

As for toxicity, while it's reasonable to assume that uranium has toxic effects similar to those of lead, there has been no evidence that anyone has injested enough uranium dust to suffer such effects.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Coward. You don't even know what half-life means (1.00 / 1) (#171)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Mar 30, 2003 at 10:06:07 PM EST

but I'm a moron?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Lol. Glad to see you've at least figured out (none / 0) (#172)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Mar 30, 2003 at 10:15:12 PM EST

how to use the rating button. Perhaps you can actually read one of those books I've been mentioning?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Bah, and again, Bah! (4.00 / 3) (#144)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 07:52:45 AM EST

Sorry, but depleted uranium is (a) so harmless and (b) so useful that it is used in many things besides ammo. Civilian radiation *shields* for example, in hospital X-ray labs.

All the accusations about depleted uranium revolve around blaming it for every unexplained illness that occurred to anyone who was ever in the area, without bothering to check to see if the amount of disease was higher or lower than in control groups.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Shuttle (none / 0) (#52)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 08:19:16 PM EST

That space shuttle error is probably an honest mistake. Some caption guy just had a brain fart and typed 'light' instead of 'sound.' I don't think anyone at CNN actually believes objects can travel 18 times faster than light.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
but the point being... (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by xria on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:00:54 AM EST

How many not versed in physics will go away from CNN believing it, probably a few, after all if superman can do it, why not the space shuttle - after all they are all heroes to arent they?

[ Parent ]
And this one? (none / 0) (#96)
by mshook on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:10:47 PM EST

Switzerland seen by CNN

[ Parent ]
F18's in Australia (none / 0) (#73)
by cam on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:05:58 AM EST

No one who knew the subject matter would call the F-18, a Navy plane an Air Force plane.

The Australian Air Force has a squadron of F18's in Iraq.

Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

As a second world war admiral commented (none / 0) (#98)
by studmuffin on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:19:11 PM EST

'Your average fighter pilot couldn't tell the difference between the bismark and the Isle of Wight ferry'

[ Parent ]
Speaking of WW2-era hardware... (5.00 / 2) (#107)
by Zarniwoop on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 04:18:30 PM EST

I caught another commentator talking about how we had our "B-17 Stealth Bombers" at work over Baghdad.

Yeah, the B-17 is certainly our most powerful -- and stealthy -- asset.  I don't know what we'd do without the Flying Fortress protecting our vital interests.

But yeah, I can see what you mean.  Most people aren't exactly knowledgable outside of their own experience.

[ Parent ]

Not limited to military reporting.... (4.66 / 3) (#49)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 07:02:32 PM EST

US News & World Report had a small article on how astronomers had identified a huge gas giant (a type of planet) that was apparently being slowly eaten by its star. Next to the article was what was obviously one of those space paintings that make such spectacular art - the planets royal blue atmosphere boiling away behind it as it blended with the yellow star.

Except US News & World Report identified it as a photo - from Hubble, of course.

Check me on this - but you'd need a lens as wide as our moon to get a good photo of a planet circling another star - and the colors wouldn't be nearly so pretty...

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

I'll bet it WAS a photo... (5.00 / 2) (#95)
by borful on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:06:36 PM EST

... of a painting!

Money is how people with no talent keep score.
[ Parent ]
But why... (5.00 / 4) (#104)
by nurglich on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 03:29:17 PM EST

...did they take a painting all the way out to the Hubble?

"There are no bad guys or innocent guys. There's just a bunch of guys!" --Ben Stiller, Zero Effect

[ Parent ]
N/T You thought the Hubble was pointed at Space? (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by prolixity on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:00:04 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Surrender (4.75 / 12) (#53)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 08:29:29 PM EST

Hey, remember when Iraq's 51st infantry division surrendered last week? CNN gobbled up those figures. First the reporter said "don't quote me on this, but I believe there were 8000 soldiers in the division." 10 seconds later the news ticker said "8000 Iraqi soldiers surrender." The next day it was in a bunch of newspapers. It seemed like bullshit at the time, the reporter had no way of knowing how many soldiers were actually in the division, how many had surrendered, and how many were actually taken into custody. So sure enough, today we found out that the 51st is alive and well, battling British forces in Basra.

Clearly the problem is CNN's failure to do even basic fact checking. Of course the US military will report inaccurate information, they should know that. Did anyone even question the logistics of 8000 guys (along with their 200 tanks) being taken into custody?

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

A Lack of fact checking is not news (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by leviramsey on Wed Mar 26, 2003 at 08:35:42 PM EST

The fact is that, in the reputable media, facts are rarely checked. The irony is that the US newspaper with the toughest fact-checking requirements is the National Enquirer, which (because of fears of libel suits and so forth) requires its writers to back up every sentence. Of course, they get around a lot by writing it as "sources close to LaToya Jackson report...", but the fact that the NY Times or whatnot don't require their reporters to back everything up is disconcerting, if you're going to place your trust in them.

ORRRR (4.00 / 3) (#62)
by gnovos on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:50:12 AM EST

Now calling a plane by the wrong nickname may seem pretty trivial, but in fact, it's sloppy reporting.

Or it could be:

Reporter: Hey, G.I. Joe, what's that plane called?
Soldier: Um, Tomcat
Reporter: Cool, what about the tank, and be quick to answer, I don't have all damn day.
Soldier: That is the M113-Z Stinking Silverfish, sir!

And thus the reporter goes on to make an ass of himself on TV.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen

that -is- sloppy reporting (4.00 / 1) (#109)
by ph0rk on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 04:35:13 PM EST

Or did you bother to read the article?

[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

Reporters (none / 0) (#63)
by tang gnat on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 03:01:18 AM EST

Need to know how to write, not how to think.

Experts only in English (none / 0) (#69)
by mayor on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 06:14:24 AM EST

Yes. It is reasonable to expert from English (or Journalism) majors to have a good command of words, sentencse, and a lucid prose. But why should we expect that they are able to become experts in other areas like medicine (for medical reporting), computer science (for computer reporting), or in this case, experts in art of war (for wartime reporting0. Journalists are not able to learn new sciences in very short time while swithing from one assignement to the next.

I suspect you have all read lots of articles about computers and programming from "computer journalists" and it was too easy for the computer scientists amongs us to conclude that these people have no clue what they are talking about. No matter how much the journalists pretends that they know -- and disperse advice about computers issues, computer professionals are quick to conclude that the journalist is full of it and this is just another story. And we should expect this because journalists are not trained in computer engineering or in computer sciense.

We all know that journalists where trained to write cute stories. Why should we hold them to high standards that ourside their field of knowledge?

[ Parent ]

As if (3.33 / 3) (#66)
by fhotg on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:30:19 AM EST

the military had no influence on what characters they "embedded". From all I've heard, those reporters were "hand-picked" by the military. If you observe an obvious lack of expertise concerning matters of war, this was a conscious decision by the Pentagon. The reason for this, you explain very well: Sport reporters are much easier to bullshit. This has the unwanted side-effect that these are also much easier to scare. You still can be sure that no word of "stiff resistance" is getting out if this doesn't fit into the propaganda plan, as the "embeds" are totally censored.
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

None of this fits what the reporters are saying (4.50 / 2) (#67)
by jubal3 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:50:11 AM EST

Read this article. The embdded reporters are not Censored at all in their content. Only specific troop locations and future plans of particular units are not to be broadcast (for obvious reasons).

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
You don't listen to the news, right ? (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by fhotg on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 06:43:58 AM EST

The question if and how much censorship is happening is of course subject to propaganda itself. If one "embed" sys he's not being censored, that means nothing. Censorship happens on three levels here:
1. the journalists have good resons for self-censorship, as pointed out in your link.
2. Scripts to be aired are censored by the news stations ( read this). News stations which would likely not self-censor didn't get journalists embedded (i.e. Al-Jazeera)
3. The military reserves the right to censor in any case, else there would be no reason to disallow private satellite-phones (your link).

Anyways, the information or better the lack thereof coming from these "embeds" speaks for itself.

[ Parent ]

Sorry, I'm not buying it (5.00 / 2) (#108)
by jubal3 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 04:20:21 PM EST

  1. Not revealing operational details in the middle of a war is not "censorship" it's common sense and a reasonable request.
  2. CNN may do this for CANNED stories, BBC most certainly does not do it with their coverage. It's been both wildly inaccurate AND highly critical of the military. And BTW, "Censorship" in the newsroom (and in the case of TV, the boardroom) isn't new and has nothing to do with the subject of this article. Reporters always claim they are being "stifled" and "censored" by their editors. It's a story as old as journalism. Editors have legal concerns, editorial policy and economic reality to deal with. Rightly or wrongly, they make decisions about what gets into the paper.
  3. The "rule" you cite about civilian sat phones is non-existant as far as I can tell. Can you provide a reference? I'd be interested to see it.I am aware of a rule about only broadcastiong at certain times. This is called "EMCON" which stands for Emmision Control. Satttelite phones and other broadcast equipment, even military grade stuff, puts out various electronic emissions that can allow the enemy to determine location information. That's a perfectly reasonable standard, one which Navy personnel will be quite familiar with.
  4. NO ONE reputable has made claims of overt censorship by the military of any issue of fact. Whether embdded reporters are sufficiently "objective" was not the subject of the article.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
too much focus on "censorship" (3.00 / 1) (#140)
by fhotg on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 03:50:39 AM EST

1. yes, of course. It is censorship by the very meaning of the word, but not to censor this would be suicidal.
2. CNN does this as does Fox and probably others. Read the link. Submitting scripts to a centralized authority which checks if the contents is politically palatable is in contrast to all traditions of good journalism and a quite new, American phenomenon. The conflict between reporters and editors you are talking about is, well, editorial by nature, a check for journalistic integrity. Remember the scandal when the Asper family, owner of 12 major Canadian newspapers insisted on publishing centrally written and approved "national editorials" in all its newspapers ? Well it was a scandal. CNN and others bringing reports "in line" is the same in my eyes.
3. Sorry, that rule I got from a different NYT-article. user:kurobot, pass:kuro5hin.
4. Subject of the article was not censorship, but the quality of reporting by "embeds". It is out of the question that the journalists are being censored albeit mainly for straight military reasons (location, target etc...). Wether they are used as a propaganda weapon is also out of the question for me: Just by seeing what they deliver, which is not much. What I feel about the subject is eloquently expressed in this otherwise very balanced WP-article. I'm glued to BBC World Service, which also gets reports from embeds. These reports are devoid of any information, compared to the other contributions. "I find it like salted nuts -- very tasty and almost empty of high-quality nourishment".

[ Parent ]
Timely (none / 0) (#68)
by RandomAction on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:50:22 AM EST

report impressions, not facts and do it on live television/radio I think impressions matter, how it feels on/near the front line.

denote "stiff" resistance I guess if youre not used to any resistance, and weren't expecting it, then any resistance might feel stiff.

I have feeling it's gonna get a lot stiffer in the comming weeks.

Are we winning or losing? What towns do we control if any? If not, why not? These are all important questions I have a feeling that from front line commanders right up to the top, these questions aren't getting answered instantly either, I mean war is a confusing buisness.

Getting reporting from the front line in near real time is bound to purvey an innacurate message, the same message that the troops are sending their line commander, all the way up the chain. The inaccuracy can only be corrected over time. EG "X has been captured, all the mines have been cleared..." Boom! "Apart from that one.." rinse.. repeat..

al-jazeera down? (2.00 / 2) (#70)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 06:37:13 AM EST

al-jazeera seems to be down

www.aljazeera.net and english.aljazeera.net are unreachable to me

anyone else have this experience?

i am on the eastern seaboard of the us

i have heard rumors about hax0rs waging war on the server

i have also heard that it is down due to the massive demand

but the paranoid schizophrenics amongst will of course shout "censorship!"

who knows? they could be right, considering the contentious nature of the pictures they have been showing, really anything is possible

consider this

any comments on whether you can reach/ can't reach al-jazeera and where you are geographically in the world would be much appreciated

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

any embedded Al-Jazeera reporters? (none / 0) (#80)
by proletariat on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:47:06 AM EST

Does anyone know if Al-Jazeera has embedded reporters?

[ Parent ]
No they do not. (none / 0) (#101)
by jubal3 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:53:48 PM EST

Probably a good thing for the reporter too.
If they were with a US unit, calling evey dead American a "great victory for Saddam, I have a feeling there would very quickly be a "firearms accident."

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
accuracy (5.00 / 2) (#125)
by puppet10 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 08:39:08 PM EST

Actually according to many reports they do have one embedded journalist with marines in southern Iraq.

Washington Post article on Arabic Press

Harb assigned two reporters to accompany U.S. troops now moving into Iraq. Al-Jazeera has a reporter embedded with the U.S. Marines. Three other al-Jazeera reporters were assigned to U.S. forces but were barred from entering Kuwait and Bahrain by local authorities, who dislike the television station's reporting.

Although they also have a number of non-embedded reporters in Iraq as well.

That said I agree that the coverage has been lacking, but part of that is that there's no time/thought put in a lot of the coverage. However some of that will improve with additional reflection on the information gathered and time put into analysis and writing/investigation/fact checking especially in the print media.

One good thing about having the reporters on the field even if they don't get it right from the field is that the information (even though its limited) is available, or if its blacked out will be available, to report on what happened after the fact even if the real-time reporting was lacking.

[ Parent ]

We would never show a captive on TV! (1.00 / 1) (#82)
by gr00vey on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:58:22 AM EST

http://www.rense.com/ Never! We are moral, the iraqis are immoral, that is why we are liberating them. war is peace.

[ Parent ]
read /. (none / 0) (#89)
by fluxrad on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 01:10:39 PM EST

they're being DOS'd

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
They have been hacked (none / 0) (#91)
by sheepy on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 01:48:32 PM EST

Looked at it earlier and some pro war people had put a pro-US banner on the front page.

"Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong." John G. Riefenbaker
[ Parent ]
Inexperience (3.00 / 1) (#74)
by khakipuce on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:21:19 AM EST

While embedding, live reporting and all the rest is generally a good thing, the number of journalists needed to cover all aspects is huge. So, while in the past the majority of the war reporting came from journalists who were war speicalists, we now have a wide range of journalists covering the war. And so the quality of the reporting suffers.

And it's not just the war, the depletion of journalists in newsrooms has lead to some bizzar situations. On one UK breakfast programme we regularly see the resident celeb trivia correspondent covering the White House, because she happens to be all they've got in the US.

No Excuse! (none / 0) (#92)
by MyrddinE on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 01:50:39 PM EST

I don't know an F-15 from an F-16... but you can bet I WOULD after one day onsite! The job of a reporter is to ask questions of the people he is with. What are they doing? Why are they doing it? What does that do?

A reporter who does not understand the people he is with and what they are doing is not a reporter. They are a bystander, an observer. Bystanders stand around, observers watch stuff... reporters ask questions.

Someone who has been asking questions would not be spouting the garbage reporting we currently have from Iraq.

[ Parent ]

Let's put it this way. (3.00 / 4) (#77)
by mguercio on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:07:49 AM EST

This is TV, entertainment, a show; just like a movie with drama and violence. The media wants ratings. If we wanted accuracy we would have a spy network owned by a public news agency (not going to happen). That's why the government has press conferences. They us this media for propeganda. You know the FUD of politics and military psycological control. All you sheep out there just love to be poked and prodded in the directions the government and military want's you to go. There is no democracy in the US nor any other country. Wake up! Quit allowing the powers that be to insult your intellegences! See what is really happening with the way the war is waged! Gee, this war seems to be a more modern take off of the one that was waged in Afganistan by the USSR. Only instead of the US companies supplying Bin Laden with weapons to fight the USSR with, the Russin companies are supplying Saddam with weapons to fight the US with.
The definition of "high achievment" is not the wisdom that you have attained yourself, but the wisdom you can share with others.
No (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by jynx on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:26:15 AM EST

Maybe from the perspective of the media this is true, but people really do want accuracy. I don't watch the news to be entertained, I watch it to be informed.


[ Parent ]

Read your own statement. (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by wumpus on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 11:50:50 AM EST

"You watch to be informed".
This single line boggles my mind. You could get the same ammount of information in 5 seconds off www.cnn.com. You could get vastly more information in the same time by plowing through a paper. All you are getting is the ability of the media to slant the news even more through camera angles and body language.

You do not watch to be informed.


[ Parent ]

Improved comment? (none / 0) (#165)
by decrocher on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 02:56:00 AM EST

The parent post was expressing desire for information.  You were arguing that TV doesn't provide much information.  These two propositions can co-exist without contradiction.

There are some things television is good at.  If you're without good net access and you want information quickly, TV works well.  If you allow that a picture is worth a thousand words, then television is theoretically attractive, even compared to the front page of cnn.com.

hell, if you balance your sources, you can even spot the bias they are trying to inflect.  Now doesn't that provide you with even _more_ interesting information?  

[ Parent ]

Finally saw this (none / 0) (#175)
by wumpus on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:03:40 PM EST

The parent post implied that he expected to receive information from TV news, and that was why he watched (I can't find anyway to read the original post in which this is not true). Second, anyone with a K5 account can be assumed to have net access.

I may be projecting my own experience to far, I find myself far to suggestible by TV (news and advertising) than I wish to be. I also question the idea of "balanced coverage". While it is foolish to believe a single source, the news industry contains forces that both strive for ideological propaganda (the Murdoch empire, for one), and an effort to maintain a single voice. The media wants to stay "on message", to improve an appearance of accuracy (for people who like to tell themselves "they watch for information", although a cynic would point out the importance of "let the people think they are thinking").

For a relatively balanced view of how the media's heard mentality works, try reading All's fair: love, war, running for President. Since this is the he said/she said look at the Clinton/Bush campaign, it can hardly fall prey to the "the media needs more propaganda for my ideology" that typical media exposes have. It simply shows in various asides how a small group of reporters decide what the story of the campaign will be, and how the spin doctors try to get them to shift the news. While I admit that the reports who follow the lead do so by trust (placed in various amounts by the reporters, editors, and readers), I doubt you will find many reports that stray significantly from the story, thus meaning that no amount of samples will remove bias.

Finally, if you want "_more_ interesting information" you can watch all the news you want. My point is that TV news is primarily entertainment. It is produced and consumed for that reason. I further claim (although with less justification), that the information may be worthless, since the amount of bias added approaches and can be greater than information transmitted. Mostly this is due to the ability to frame the picture. I am reminded about coverage of a (lighter than expected) hurricane in which only one tree was knocked over. Every broadcast had to be filmed in front of that tree.


[ Parent ]

False dilemma fallacy (4.50 / 2) (#83)
by mstefan on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 10:37:32 AM EST

You're essentially saying that because there is inaccurate reporting, all reporting is inaccurate propaganda and by some extension, proof that there is no such thing as democracy. Sorry, but logically speaking, that doesn't even pass the sniff test.

[ Parent ]
Have you looked at anything you know in detail? (none / 0) (#86)
by wumpus on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 11:58:05 AM EST

The tagline for this sight is "technology and culture, from the trenches". Presumeably you are familiar with technology. Now go fact-check some recent media guesses on the subject.

The point is, every ambitious reporter in the world is covering this story, and are only interested in getting there story out. Very few of them have a clue in what they are covering. Editors are going to decide on what to cover based on 1. increasing viewership, 2. what the owners and advertisers want shown, 3. what appears to be the truth in the editors opinion. Note that the editor is just as unlikely to have any clue as to determining the information as the reporter, so this part isn't terribly useful.

If democracy rests on accurate reporting, its long dead.


[ Parent ]

I agree, reporting sucks (2.00 / 1) (#81)
by gr00vey on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:54:34 AM EST

http://www.fair.org/whats-new.html It is shoddy, biased, and poor.

Canadian General's view on the coverage (5.00 / 2) (#84)
by CitAnon on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 10:56:06 AM EST

Battling with Reality.

I appreciate that news can qualify as entertainment and war news can be the best "entertainment" of all. Nevertheless, when the coverage of a few exciting but relatively minor events during a series of brilliant and major military successes captures the attention of the international media and rocks the stock markets, an old soldier just shakes his head in bewilderment.

Maj-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, now retired, commanded UN troops during the Bosnian civil war of 1992.

bah! (3.00 / 4) (#88)
by Lenny on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 01:08:19 PM EST

So you want to know what's REALLY going on?
Volunteer for the Marines

"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
Doesn't work (none / 0) (#103)
by rmn on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 03:02:36 PM EST

Actually, most of the military are also being kept uninformed (which makes sense - they only need to know about the operations they're involved in).

[ Parent ]
huh? (none / 0) (#123)
by Lenny on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:45:16 PM EST

How the hell can you tell me they are uninformed when they're the ones shooting and getting shot at?

"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
[ Parent ]
duh! (none / 0) (#127)
by rmn on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:19:07 PM EST

Simple: they keep asking the journalists "how are we doing?", and asking for news about other areas of the conflict. Don't you watch TV?

Anyway, it's standard procedure not to inform soldiers about more than they need to know. First, because it could be bad for morale, and second because it makes it impossible for the enemy to get any relevant information from them if they're captured. Soldiers (and even some officers) are only informed about their own missions and the area they are in.

[ Parent ]

This is a simple concept (none / 0) (#150)
by Lenny on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 10:20:45 AM EST

Soldiers are informed about their mission. Soldiers are the ones that carry out that mission. Therefore they are the only ones that truly know what happened on that mission. Of course they don't know about other missions. Ask a soldier what happened after his mission and you'll get the facts. Ask people higher up the chain of command and you get filtered info.

"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
[ Parent ]
Absolutely (none / 0) (#154)
by rmn on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 01:16:45 PM EST

However, I was replying to the poster who said "if you want to know what's really happening, join the marines". You may get a lot of information about a very small part of the war, but overall you get more information from CNN... ok, maybe not from CNN, but at least from the BBC.


[ Parent ]

sorta (none / 0) (#155)
by Lenny on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 03:14:33 PM EST

You get a lot of overall information on CNN/BBC/etc., but that has been through sensors, spinsters, and who knows what. Join the Marines and you'll see what is truly happening. No filters. No BS. The truth on the battlefield.

"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
[ Parent ]
Redo from start at line 0 (none / 0) (#156)
by rmn on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 03:29:41 PM EST

For an answer to that, see my previous message. :)

[ Parent ]
BASIC (none / 0) (#174)
by Lenny on Mon Mar 31, 2003 at 10:34:04 AM EST

10 PRINT "You are wrong"
20 GOTO 10

"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
[ Parent ]
haha... (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 04:58:02 PM EST

Obviously you've never been in the military... most of those guys wouldn't have a clue what was going on in the next company, never mind the next town.

Not that this is a "bad" thing, but they've got enough to worry about as it is.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

ummm...no (none / 0) (#122)
by Lenny on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:43:16 PM EST

The men shooting rifles at the enemy and ducking enemy bullets know exactly what is going on. They are the ones who can tell you what happens on the battlefield. Everyone else can and will spin it to their needs.

"Hate the USA? Boycott everything American. Particularly its websites..."
[ Parent ]
Kinda. (none / 0) (#146)
by Amroarer on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 08:02:20 AM EST

Sure, they know what's happening /to them/. They're getting shot at. But the individual squaddy's knowledge of what's going on outside his immediate situation is pretty limited.

Think of all those news feeds, with the guys hunkered down in their Bradley/Humvee/Paladin, peering out into whirling sand, with radio their only link to the outside world. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have a clue what was going on, even if I wasn't worried about people trying to kill me.

Besides, just look at the 'friendly fire' incidents. If the guys on the ground had that kind of wide situational awareness, we wouldn't see Patriots taking down Tornados, or Marine Corps tanks firing on Marines.
+++ A terrorist is somebody who has a bomb but doesn't have an air force. - William Blum
[ Parent ]

No captains in the Navy? (3.33 / 3) (#99)
by baron samedi on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:46:09 PM EST

Uh. The rank of captain *is* a U.S. Navy rank. It comes after Commander and before Rear Admiral, it's Army equivalent is Colonel.
"Hands that help are better by far than lips that pray."- Robert G. Ingersoll
Uhh (none / 0) (#105)
by jubal3 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 03:50:59 PM EST

O-3 is NOT a US Navy Captain grade. O-3 (the one with the twin bars) is Lt. in the US Navy, and Captain in the US Army. In either case, a JUNIOR officer. An 0-6 is a Navy Captain, a SENIOR officer. So calling a Lt. (read low-level manager) a Captain, is like calling a team lead a CFO. It's wildly inaccurate.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Yes, still incorrect (none / 0) (#110)
by baron samedi on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 04:49:42 PM EST

But I was addressing the statement in the story that claimed that the rank of Captain was not a Navy rank at all, unless I read it wrong. The prose was unclear, it made it seem like he was saying that the rank of captain isn't a Navy rank.
"Hands that help are better by far than lips that pray."- Robert G. Ingersoll
[ Parent ]
FYI: (5.00 / 1) (#115)
by swifty on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 05:50:34 PM EST

It's generally considered bad form around here to rate comments as 1's in your own story.

Freiheit ist immer auch die freiheit des anderen.
[ Parent ]
Your poll doesn't make sense (1.66 / 3) (#102)
by humble on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 02:55:30 PM EST

I couldn't cast a vote because the question doesn't make any sense -- all of the information being put out is so loaded with purpose (and I say this as an Indymedia die-hard) that accuracy doesn't even factor into it.

It should read "Is war coverage all propaganda?" then I could have at least voted "yes".
Indymedia - Civil society's not-so-secret servicetm

Well, since you read Indymedia (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by jubal3 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 03:52:54 PM EST

thwen the option for The Revolutionary Worker ought to be substantially quivalent. :)

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
hmm... thought about it... nope (none / 0) (#118)
by humble on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 06:03:24 PM EST

Can't say that it does.  I'm actually much more into ecological principles than quibbling bosses v. workers.

However, I'm a big supporter of shorter work weeks if that helps.
Indymedia - Civil society's not-so-secret servicetm
[ Parent ]

Hmm... have to add (none / 0) (#173)
by jubal3 on Mon Mar 31, 2003 at 02:24:40 AM EST

an answer: "Who cares the world is gonna melt anyway" or something to that effect?

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Inaccurate, but still worthwhile (5.00 / 2) (#117)
by scratchmonkey on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 06:02:15 PM EST

I think you have a good point about the lack of accuracy coming from embedded journalists. However, I think they still serve a valid purpose, in that they're able to communicate to the folks at home, just how chaotic and harrowing it can be on the front lines.

I spent 8 years in the U.S. Navy, and was deployed with the 1st FSSG Marines during Gulf 1, and like you, I sometimes get frustrated by the apparent lack of military knowledge put out by the reporters. However, it's useful to remember that they haven't been to boot camp, and probably haven't seen much in the way of instruction about the differences in rank structure between the branches, or chain of command, or anything else that's typically covered in basic training.

Given that many of these reporters are reporting under conditions that for them would constitute extreme duress, I think they're doing a good job by and large.

As the military is fond of reminding us, "First reports are always inaccurate." That's what we're getting from the embedded reporters, first reports. For more accurate coverage, I think we need to look to the news weeklies, like TIME or NEWSWEEK, because they have a bit more time between issues to do their fact-checking. Taking all your news from a single medium or source is usually a bad idea anyway.

I also think you may be more alert to (and more irritated by) this type of reporting, because you're a journalist yourself. No one likes to see sloppy work sulley their own profession. But in this case, you're taking people who weren't trained for combat, and putting them in combat situations. So even though I think you're right, I also think we could give the embedded folk a little slack. I agree that this would be a bad situation if the ONLY news of the war came from the embedded reporters, but that's not the case.

too critical (3.50 / 2) (#120)
by gdanjo on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:01:27 PM EST

You're view of war is too "techie." We geeks suffer the same problem when talking about computers.

What you need to understand is that people's perception of war activities are skewed - reporters tend to skew their reports (unintentionally) to that what people are interested in. For example, human injury, while not a big deal for soldiers, are a huge deal for us. When we see dead bodies and cruelty, we read it as far more important than the 120 bombs that fell 2 minutes later (I'll never forget seeing that taliban soldier being "torn apart" by northern forces - and then crow about it to the camera).

Remember, the audience is not critical. Showing them "too critical" information would skew their perception in other ways (and you'd run behind them shouting "no, no, that's not what I meant!").

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"

a good article (5.00 / 3) (#124)
by YelM3 on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 07:58:32 PM EST

Here's a good article on some inaccurate BBC reporting going on: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_25-3-2003_pg4_19

MicroReporting? (3.50 / 2) (#126)
by jonathanwilson on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:05:06 PM EST

Not so long ago there were politicians who were accused of micromanaging, whether it was a war or the economy -- it was considered a bad thing that the leader should have his head so stuck into the situation that he couldn't get the big picture.  It was considered bad that he couldn't trust his generals to do the job that they were trained to do without getting in their face about every little thing.

I think the micromanagers in this war are the press.  Because the newsfeed is 24/7 there is constant demand for even the thinnest shred of new information.  I have been struck that there is very little professionalism about the tv coverage that I have seen so far.  

It feels an awful lot like watching local TV news.  

I would appreciate it if the anchors would act like editors -- taking the live feed from the embedded troops and adding qualifying statements, big picture, corroboration from other sources, and plain old fact checking.  The live feed is good for local color -- but not good to report as fact on the spot.

Small firefights... (3.60 / 5) (#128)
by melior on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 09:28:59 PM EST

...called "heavy resistance". This one belongs in a different category than misapprehending the official lingo for a military rank, or the official corporate nickname for a weapons system. This is most likely due to nothing more than journalists reporting what they're told by one side of the conflict, without consideration for a term's customary usage.
Two other recent examples:

"diplomacy" : trying to convince other nations to start a war

"coalition" forces : two nations' forces (also: "vast coalition")


- That's OK, I wasn't really using all of my Constitutional rights anyway...

Hey (3.33 / 3) (#131)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 10:47:54 PM EST

You forget the 2,000 Australians, the elite Polish Commando team arrived in on their screen-doored submarine, 278 Romanians, and everything Albania's budget could afford (70 men.) WOO TEAM!

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Fact is... (3.37 / 8) (#133)
by rmn on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 11:38:11 PM EST

Fact is, many people who choose journalism do so because it's one of the few academic careers with little or no maths. You don't need to be a maths genius to be a good journalist, but if you're absolutely hopeless at (and afraid of) maths, chances are you're not very good at logic, either. And that means you won't be able to sort the information from random noise.

As has been said, judging from journalism about subjects one knows well (in my case computers and video), one has to assume the rest of journalism is equally bad and unreliable.


Well, hey. I suck at higher math. . . (none / 0) (#152)
by Fantastic Lad on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 11:09:46 AM EST

But I certainly know how to spot spurious logic when I see it.

I think the reason reporters are lame is that the system has been formed so that from the ground up, only certain personality profiles are herded into media positions.

Look at Larry King. A very smart guy who I suspect probably followed his calling without his math skills, good or bad, being any sort of deciding factor. And that's a guy who has nonetheless bought the party line. I mean, he really believes the bullshit.

Science geeks, (for lack of a more respectful term which I would certainly use), are no more capable of spotting truth in the morass of data than are journalists. Go visit Slashdot if you want proof.

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

IN SOVIET RUSSIA (4.00 / 1) (#153)
by rmn on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 01:03:27 PM EST

...higher math sucks at YOU!

(obligatory Slashdot troll reference ;)

Most people in Slashdot aren't science geeks. Not even computer geeks. They're geek wannabes, which is just sad (look, ma, I overclocked my GeForce and managed to install Corel Linux, I'm l337!).

As I said, you don't need to be a mathematical genius or expert to be good at generic logic, but if you're so scared of maths that its absence in a particular course makes that course more desirable to you (and I know several people who picked journalism for this reason alone), then you're probably not very good at handling information at an abstract level (ie, spotting contradictions, missing bits, overall consistency, etc.).

I don't really watch Larry King much (although I do get CNN). He always seems to be interviewing someone about some horrible disease or operation they had. I wonder when he'll interview Bush about his brain removal... ;)

Tim Sebastian (BBC) is usually more interesting, although sometimes he's agressive just for the sake of it (ex., "Good morning minister. / Good morning Tim. / Good, minister? Is it really a good morning? In fact it's a terrible morning, isn't it? / Well, er... / You knew it was a terrible morning when you said that, didn't you? So why did you lie, minister? Why?").

[ Parent ]

Perceptions of the War (4.00 / 7) (#135)
by jonathon on Thu Mar 27, 2003 at 11:49:59 PM EST

Here's a good article from the Washington Post about the stark contrast between US and UK (BBC) reporting of the war, possibly due to the different audiences they are playing to. The BBC is coming under attack from various sources regarding its coverage.

It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value.
-- Stephen Hawking
The BBC reporting too many facts, is it? (3.00 / 2) (#136)
by rodgerd on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 12:04:41 AM EST

Instead of breathless speculation or thinly devised propoganda?

Unlike Fox, with its stream of never-retracted stories that quickly emerge as falsehoods.

[ Parent ]

So they say (3.00 / 2) (#138)
by jonathon on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 12:26:21 AM EST

I'm with you. The BBC's World Service radio programming has been very impressive with its war reporting thus far (IMHO).

It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value.
-- Stephen Hawking
[ Parent ]
Dead or alive, that's the question (3.00 / 1) (#141)
by Pholostan on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 04:21:42 AM EST

According to CNN, this Saddam Hussein guy has been dead about 27 times (IIRC). Fox News has reported him dead only 23 times (IIRC, again) and seriously wounded twelve times. He has more lives than a whole litter of kittens, that guy.

- And blood tears I cry Endless grief remained inside
WWF (wrestling) and audience maturity (2.75 / 4) (#142)
by ftee on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 05:15:57 AM EST

I'm amazed at how many people in the USA (and those aping American culture in other countries) watch WWF on tv. They KNOW everything is madeup but still the level of enjoyment/belief is awesome. This reflects their level of maturity and appetite for anything that is exciting. No, wonder American way of life is swayed by whatever is shown on the idiot box. ftee

Given that your ignorant (1.25 / 4) (#143)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 07:45:56 AM EST

of the correct name of the WWE (they had to change it when they lost a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund) how much can you really know about who or how many people watch tv wrestling?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
As long as we're on the subject of ignorance. . . (2.50 / 2) (#151)
by Fantastic Lad on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 10:53:39 AM EST

Given that your ignorant of the correct name of the WWE (they had to change it when they lost a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund) how much can you really know about who or how many people watch tv wrestling?

Indeed. Just look at you; rather than spend the fifteen seconds of attention and memorization required to learn the difference between, "your" and "you're", you have chosen instead to sound like a wrestling fa- er, moron, your whole life.

I wonder what other gems of wisdom you come pre-installed with? (Well, actually I've read some of them, so the question is rhetorical.)

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

Bah. I need not concern myself with speeling erors (none / 0) (#159)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 08:46:58 PM EST

Grammer is for little people.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Repack your adjectives (4.33 / 3) (#147)
by yndrd on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 08:11:02 AM EST

I'm usually suspicious of news coverage overly laden with adjectives and adverbs, particularly subjective ones. I don't need to be told a bombing raid was "deadly" or "devastating" or "awe-inspiring." I doubt any of the journalists reporting on the war have the proper context to judge a firefight as "heavy" or "light."

I much prefer the CSPAN floating anonymous camera approach, but I suppose in war there has to be SOME interpretation. I just wish they didn't have to use such hyperbole to play up the ratings value of the dramatic story of war.

Hell Yeah (5.00 / 3) (#148)
by Aneurin on Fri Mar 28, 2003 at 08:35:31 AM EST

Over here in the UK with Sky Digital we get Euronews which has a brilliant section called "No Comment".  Needless to say it shows footage without commentary which is quite refreshing-- I don't know how many times I've seen Sky News and the like show the same clips with some "expert" explaining the obvious.

"See, they are firing a surface to surface missle at that building where you can see ememy fire coming from.  Look at the explosion.  No more fire-- they're probably dead".
Fantasic, like I couldn't tell!

Just think: the entire Internet, running on jazz. -Canthros

[ Parent ]
Press under the threat of friendly fire... (3.33 / 3) (#163)
by Endaemon on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 12:44:58 AM EST

Are you surprised of lack of precision from the press? Check these reports from portuguese RTP (roughly translated by your trully)

The first casualty of all wars in the truth. There goes the old saying. The Pentagon ships into the new war with a new politics, alot more restricted, of control of the press. Near the rules of behavior, defined by the positive, there is a threat of drastic consequences to the insurgents that wish to tell with independence their on-site observations.

A rules come essentially through a program named "Embebbed correspondents", in wich some 500 journalists will participate, said the spoker from the Pentagon, Timothy Blair, quoted by the german diary "Süddeutsche Zeitung".

The new rules of control of journalists are continuosly being elaborated along the whims of Donald Rumsfeld department. They prevent correspondents of war of designating the places and moments of military operations with precision and hand them the paths they are allowed to make. They disencourage any "free-lancers" initiatives and limit the embebed journalists movements into the most sensible theatres of war. In those only specially selected teams are allowed to move.

That said, german television chains have been reporting the fear of staying, for whatever comes to pass in the moment and the places of importance, dependant from the images gathered by CNN, CBS, and BBC teams. And, as so they already have contracts with those chains more well-regarded by the Pentagon.

Another procedure that is now being used is the retrieval of all the filming equipments by the military, right on the act of "embebing" the journalists. The delivery of those equipments is then subject to each concrete and pontual usage, previously communicated and reported.

The perverse consequence of such control is the warning that the prestigious journalist Kate Adie said to have received from a Pentagon member: any equipment detected filming or recorded on non-authorized zones will automaticly become target under fire from the north-american forces.


António Louçã, RTP Multimédia
2003-03-18 16:47:00

And in another story, broadcasted today... (4.50 / 2) (#164)
by Endaemon on Sat Mar 29, 2003 at 12:48:38 AM EST

The journalist Luis Castro and the image reporter Vitor Silva were arrested and hit by north-american troops under the accusation of spying. The special-envoy of RTP, as said in the TeleJournal (national local news broadcast) how all happened. The tale:

"I was already arrested several times in Africa; I had to run in several countries; I was expelled from anothers; but I confess that I was never subject to such hummiliation as in these last three days.

With us, in the RTP jeep, travelled two other french journalists that we invited to make this trip (Luis Castro and Vitor Silva wanted to reach Najaf).

When we arrived at the front-lines, them (the french journalists) did not had gas masks. It was then told to them they could not carry on.

I had two choices: either I left those same journalists in the middle of the desert, on foot; or i'd try to transport them back, into a position where they could find gas masks or get into a military convoy that went into Kuwait. Thats what we did. The first choice would be unthinkable.

We met two journalists from NBC that in the following day would return to Kuwait since they were in the same condition as those French journalists. It was arranged that the four would met in a defined position.

We head to the meeting point. We asked if they were already there and identified ourselves with our credentials.

From that moment on the chaos started. After them (north-american militaries) were already convinced we were journalists - I heard them say: "Its all right with them", they told us to leave the car and search all the material in our jeep. They ordered us to drop on the ground and with their feet they drove away our hands from the head. They told us not to move cause we were on the line of fire. They pointed their guns.

After that they told us to sit turned against a wall. There we stayed. We asked them to stop mistreating us more since it was of no use, we were journalists, and we clearly hadnt Iraqi faces. They said that we may be spies and that the satelite-fones could be used to communicate with the enemy forces.

That said, they placed us on the jeep. They took every electronic materials: cameras, CDs, tapes, everything. There we stood, two or three hours, after they told us that we would stay two or three days until the intelligence services from the army would come to pick us up.

After those two or three hours, I tried to reason with them. I said that at least we needed to make a call to our families. They said they were soldiers and that they havent talked with their families since long ago.

I insisted. I asked that if they had woman and kids, to remenber what they could be going through right now and had a bit of humanity.

Four or five soldier droped on me; they placed me in the ground; one placed his foot in my neck, another joined my feet and hands and another kicked me in my ribbons; they cuffed me, dragged me and took me inside. One hour later I managed to reason again. I explained them that we didnt look like enemies and we didnt understood the events. They told us to be quiet. They again placed me in the car. There we stayed 24 hours without a single word.

One day later they come to us (other militaries) a said simply this: "No hard feelings, god bless you. Try to understand that those men from the military police are trained like dogs: they only know to strike."

They offered coffe. Apologized. Still, our material had to be kept, since the CIA wanted to check what we had - it could contain content damaging to the image of the United States.

Later they placed us in a chopper and took us into Kuwait. There we stayed one night, in a chair, waiting for those of the CIA to come question us.

That said we had the change to speak with members of the 101º brigade of aerotransported troops that were in that position. They got mad. They felt the situation we were going through was too humiliating. They themselves took the initiative of slashing the boxes where our stuff was. They handed us our phones and told us to call at ease. When me and Vitor spoke with our families they wept cause they thought we were dead.

After that, those same men commited themselves to bring us to the city of Kuwait. One of those officers said farewell, with tears in his eyes, saying that the guys that have done that were the shame of the USA, the shame of the american army. E that if one day he had some power in his hands, they would never wear those uniforms again.

The american army still has our jeep. We have the guarantee that if it doesnt arrive to us in good state, the very army will pay it to the company that rented it to us.

That we shouldnt worry. That we would be in good hands now. And that if we had any problems to contact them again.

Luís Castro, RTP
2003-03-28 23:07:35

[ Parent ]

War coverage: Timely or Amateur? | 175 comments (152 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
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