Embedded reporting results in coverage “so positive as to verge on celebratory”

Early results of the Pentagon’s public relations experiment with 500 “embedded” news reporters in Iraq has gone over so well that “the war itself is selling like beer on a troopship, thanks in part to compelling news accounts from reporters bunking with frontline units,” reported the New York Times.

Carefully devised by the Pentagon to counter years of complaints by news organizations about restrictions on combat coverage, the new “embedding” policy, said the Times, has produced riveting images of fighter jets on carriers and tanks plowing across the Iraqi desert, accompanied by household faces like Ted Koppel of ABC's Nightline and of surrendering Iraqi soldiers with their hands held high."

Even for all the military's orchestration of events, said the Times, news organizations have so far expressed satisfaction with the arrangements, which offer much greater access in exchange for relatively few restrictions. “And the bulk of the coverage has been so positive as to verge on celebratory,” the newspaper reported.

The newspaper said “some reporters have been given extraordinary access, allowed to sit in on secret briefings, watching computerized maps of the battlefield with the latest satellite photos, in the middle of the Kuwait desert, for example. The cardinal rule: No reporting, not even any phone calls to their editors, that might divulge details of future operations, and no private satellite telephones, cell phones or sidearms. Showers are scarce, hot meals spotty, but reporters assigned to military units recount friendly, open conversations with G.I.'s, surgeons, drivers, dentists and communications experts, described by one correspondent as “quite talkative” and “extremely interested in what I do.”

According to the Times, the Pentagon's guidelines, signed by each attached journalist, allow reporting of general troop strength and casualty figures, confirmed figures of enemy soldiers captured and broad information about previous combat actions. Reporters are barred from divulging specifics about troop movements and locations, unless authorized. The identities of wounded or killed Americans may not be reported for 72 hours, or until next of kin can be notified, and local commanders may impose embargoes to protect operations.

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