World War II introduced some famous correspondents and photo journalists on the scene, men and women who spread out with the troops and reported their story back to America: Ernie Pyle, Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White, William Shirer, and Edward R. Murrow, to name but a few. All staunch patriots during the war, doing their best both to tell the story and to help Americans understand how the troops were fighting and what they were fighting for. Has this war produced the same?
I know that Time and Newsweek have reporters who seem to be entrenched in Baghdad. However, when I look at stories from AP and Reuters, the names are Arab sounding, and I can’t tell if they’re Arab-Americans chosen for their language skills, or if we’re getting our news primarily from local stringers. Just a few examples from stories in the last 24 hours — all AP — are Kim Gamel, Hamza Hendawi, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra.
Does anyone know who these people are and where their loyalties lie? It’s perfectly possible that they’re straightforward reporters, honestly doing their job. But given the stories coming out of the Middle East about terrorist shills selling their stories to America through Reuters and AP, it seems equally plausible right now that these and other reporters on the AP and Reuters payroll have agendas that go beyond “just the facts.”
I don’t want to malign innocent people actually doing their job, but I do think that these are questions worth asking and answering. As it is, as I read the news, I often have the feeling that, if this were happening in World War II, we’d have gotten our European news, not only from American Pyles and Capas, but also from the Himmler/Goering news agency. And while it’s important for our military strategists to see wht the enemy’s point of view is, it’s devastating to a nation on a wartime footing to be looking to the other side as its primary news source.
UPDATE: Minutes after I posted the above musings, I learned that NewsBusters is carrying a story from the UK Guardian that Iraqi Government is setting up a special agency to deal with false news stories:
Iraq’s interior ministry has formed a press monitoring unit in response to what it described as “fabricated and false news” that misrepresents the country’s security situation.
Singling out the Associated Press for criticism, spokesman Brigadier General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said yesterday that dedicated unit would monitor news coverage and even initiate legal action if journalists do not correct stories it believes to be incorrect.
“Fabricated and false news hurts and gives the Iraqis a wrong picture that the security situation is very bad, when the facts are totally different,” he said.
He added that the media should consult the ministry’s large public relations department staff for “real, true news”.
Of course, I have to say that I’m not entirely certain the Iraqi government itself will be a reliable news source, but at least now the insurgents and the Iraqi government will be taking some of their energy off the battlefield and pouring it into their own media wars — making them more like America than ever before.