Unembedded Journalism: Decades of War Reporting

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Unembedded Journalism: Decades of War Reporting

Unread postby willow » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:15 pm

Unembedded: Two Decades of Mavrick War Reporting by Scott Taylor
400 pages http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Une ... edded%2527

Unembedded is about a Canadian war corospondant Scott Taylor. A name I was completely unfamiliar with prior to reading said book, it just sounded interesting. The book covers roughtly 20 years of war reporting from around the world iraq, afghanistan, the former yugoslavia, etc. Its written mostly like a midlife memoir, rather then something that poses an argument and while Taylor is considered a polemic it does make a fun read. Some of the images he creates are interesting, sitting at a good restaraunt on the patio at night during a NATO air raid on the town hes in in the Balkans, various people eating candlelit dinner watching the lightshow in the sky as entertainment.

The book highlights the need for some reporters to go "outside the wire" and visit the other side if they can. The kind of access they can get as members of the international press is sometimes startling, but then many warlords and tyrants will give interviews in order to air there views. Saddams 1991 interview with CNN etc. The risks involved are significant as well, this book opening with the authors kidnapping in Iraq in 2004. There has been a push during several recent small wars, notably the Gaza war, where nations sought to limit any international press access to the conflict zone.

Im not sure so much what the publisher is talking about with the "exposes corruption etc" unless they are refering to a previous book he has written, but he does cover in an over arching way a period when his magazine Esprit de Corps was used to leak stories about government and military corruption to the mainstream media while fighting with the DND.

I guess the only "question" it would raise, are about the value of unembedded journalists in conflict zones, who can provide a more objective or on the ground view of whats going on.

From the Publisher wrote:Ex-soldier turned opinionated war correspondent takes us beyond the headlines to the front lines of major world conflicts.
In September 2004, veteran Canadian journalist Scott Taylor was taken hostage in northern Iraq. While awaiting execution by beheading, he reflected on the events that had brought him to a torture chamber in a remote Iraqi village.
Taylor's recounting includes his experiences as a Canadian Forces infantryman and as a frontline reporter investigating military affairs for the military magazine Esprit de Corps. His quest to see "the other side" has taken him to Africa and the former Yugoslavia, and to Saddam Hussein's Iraq in twentyone trips before, during and after the U.S.led invasion.
In 1996, he coauthored the bestseller Tarnished Brass: Crime and Corruption in the Canadian Military. After his kidnapping ordeal, Taylor returned to Iraq, and since then has resumed his unembedded war reporting in Afghanistan. In recognition of his ability to go beyond the jingoism of mainstream media, the Globe and Mail has dubbed him the "voice of the grunts." With searing criticism, Taylor exposes the deceit of the politicians and media cheerleaders who are ultimately responsible for waging the senseless wars that cause so much needless suffering for innocent people.
Last edited by Zo3R3tZo on Fri Jan 15, 2010 7:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
dirty work... the right google key words...
-willow 07/22/09
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Re: Unembedded: two decades of mavrick war reporting

Unread postby Azmodan Kijur » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:32 pm

Sounds like an interesting book, Willow.

On the question you raise, I would assume that the general consensus is that the embedded reporter is a good thing, providing the straight facts about the situation. But it is precisely that image that makes the embedded reporter a thing to be careful of.

Allow me to explain with a separate example first. Take the idea of a company that produces a product - we will use the tool company Black & Decker. Speak to people that purchased and used tools from this company for many years and they will tell you that the brand makes a quality product. Or, rather, that it did make a quality product. Most will recall a particular tool that they purchases that gave them amazing service - an old tool that they might still possess. But they will also tell you about a recent tool that they purchased from Black & Decker that does not stand up as well as the old one.

Now, we all know that part of this can be simple variability in the manufacturing process. We also realize that it may be the expression of a logic fallacy - that things are getting worse today and it was better before (Appeal against Novelty, appeal to antiquity). It might be a perception problem - the tool is lasting but the fond memories of the other one shadows its performance. But if reviewers of the tools indicate the same and the opinion across many users and professionals indicate that the build is weakening, then we can assume that there may be some growing weakness in the tool line. Yet, people still buy them. Why?

Reputation. Simple reputation. The tool brand got a name years ago for quality and the company is riding the coat tails of that reputation. It does not matter to them that their very acts are making reputation ill deserved, the net effect is that they can still sell the tools for the higher prices simply because they had a reputation for quality. This is a matter of the trust of the consumer for the brand and the integrity of the management of the brand. People trust that the tools are quality and will purchase even if the build quality is dropping. They trust that the company will make quality good, that it will not try to mislead or rip them off.

Coming back to embedded reporters, we can see a similar situation. The reporter is in a position that the public will automatically trust, putting their lives on the line for unbiased coverage of the action on the ground. They assume that the reporter will have the professional might and integrity to report what they are seeing as it happens. Only thing is, this perception is not always in keeping with reality. If that individual works for a news agency that tows a particular ideological line (**cough***FOXNEWS***cough**), then often their reports are colored by the vision that the network wants on the data. Yes, they are embedded, but they are not reporting what they see but rather what they want other to see. You also have those situations where the reporter is situated in a unit that is "scrubbed" constantly by the upper command to ensure that the vision that they are given is a positive one. This goes to the extent of modifying reality in order to ensure that the correct vision is given.

The public perception of that reporter and of embedding is that both are reliable. This is from the reputation of the process - long have they heard the greats of old go somewhere to report on an event and do so fairly. This has created an image that embedding creates good journalism automatically. That image is not exactly accurate. It is far too easy for the truth to be distorted even in those situations. The objectiveness of FoxNews during Iraq was at an extreme when compared to reality - but people will believe it because the reporter is "Right there in the field!!!!" That is the danger of it. Not to say that there are not honest embeds, like the gentleman you mentioned, Willow, but one would think it better to cross link different reports from different networks - at least one will have confirmation of a particular viewpoint.
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