Friday, April 22, 2005

"The American people need to know the full story" 

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is beating his head against the wall, or to be more precise, against the media:
"The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is encouraging newspaper editors to tell America the full story of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

" 'It’s particularly important today... because the American people need to know the full story,' Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said in addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 'because it is going to be their resolve that is so critical to our ability to confront the extremist threat'."
Which is precisely why many in the media insist on focusing on the bad news. Not all, by any means - many reporters and editors do their best to provide fair and balanced reporting; others are simply naturally biased in favor of the "exciting" bad news at the expense of the "boring" good news, whether they're writing from Boston or Baghdad - but a significant minority, which is personally opposed to Republican foreign policy, has been doing its best to repeat the brilliant performance of their Vietnam-era predecessors.

Wellington famously remarked that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton; today, America's wars are being lost in the cafeteria of the Columbia School of Journalism.
"Myers told the editors he reads far more about the problems of servicemembers’ equipment and the latest insurgent attack than about 'the thousands of amazing things our troops are accomplishing'...

"The chairman said that part of the problem lies with the military. He said commanders must be more responsive and give more access to reporters. 'We’re working on that,' he told the editors.

"But still, 'a bomb blast is seen as more newsworthy than the steady progress of rebuilding communities and lives, remodeling schools and running vaccination programs and water purification plants'."
See any edition of my "Good news from Iraq".
"Myers challenged the newspaper editors to ensure the American people understand the hundreds of ways their sons and daughters are improving lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

" 'In your profession and mine, (we are) working hard to defend our values, our way of life and our Constitution,' Myers said. 'We risk our comfort, our safety and our lives for what we believe in.' The chairman noted that more than 40 journalists have been killed while covering operations in Iraq. The 'Fourth Estate' always has covered conflicts, Myers noted, but what is different today is the amount of news and that it travels so much faster than in the past.

" 'What questions are the news reports trying to answer?' the chairman asked. 'The theme of the coverage lately seems to be "When are the troops coming home?" rather than "What are we accomplishing?"'"
That's a rather charitable interpretation and a brave attempt by the General to find some common ground. In fact, "our values", "our way of life" and "our Constitution" quite often tend to mean totally different things to military people and journalists.
"He said the military will work with the press. 'Our task is to give you better access, more timely information and we will do that,' he said. 'In return I would ask you to keep at the task of trying to show as complete a picture as you can. I know our troops deserve that, and I think the American people deserve it as well'."
As we all know, just because you deserve something, it doesn't mean you're going to get it. Thank God for blogs.


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