Friday: Journalists long have covered war

April 19, 2013 

— Noelle Phillips’ recollection of her experiences as an embedded reporter during the war in Iraq (“A reporter looks back on invasion of Iraq,” March 19) is a valuable reminder of what journalists are willing to risk to ensure Americans get the news.

But one point in her article — “It (Iraq) was the first war where the military allowed journalists to ride alongside troops during combat” — might disappoint the legendary journalist Ernie Pyle, who died under Japanese fire on a Pacific island in World War II. Or Walter Cronkite, who flew on bombing missions over Germany as a reporter. Or Joe Galloway in the brutal battle of the Ia Drang valley of Vietnam. Or Molly Moore, who recounts her Persian Gulf War experience in A Woman at War: Storming Kuwait with the U.S. Marines. Or the Chicago Times’ Sylvanus Cadwallader, who embarked with Ulysses Grant on the Mississippi and occasionally found himself tasked with sobering the general.

The Pentagon realized in preparing for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that there would be reporters all over the battlefield anyhow. New technologies made reporting “live from the battlefield” an enticement too great for news organizations to resist. So the Pentagon essentially said “come on along for the ride.”

Hundreds, like Phillips, took the offer. Each reporter became a dot in the reporting. As in a pointillist painting, the dots created the larger picture of how the invasion proceeded. Some of the dots were extinguished in their pursuit of the unfolding story.

That was a risk well understood by journalists. But it was hardly the first time.

Charles Bierbauer

Columbia

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