Commentary and links relating to media coverage of war; both before, during, and after.

William A. Dorman is Professor of Government at California State University, Sacramento, and has taught a course in War, Peace and the Mass Media since 1970.

Web Page

U.S. Foreign Policy Blog

E-Mail: dormanw at

<< current


War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Thursday, June 17, 2004  
Reporting Under The Gun in an Ambush Zone

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
June 8, 2004

Blog editor's note: One of the best first-person accounts I've read of what's it like to report from today's Iraq.


I guess I've been working for newspapers too long, but when I looked into the face of my would-be killer as he shot bursts of AK-47 fire into my SUV on the superhighway from Fallujah to Baghdad, the first thing that came to mind was the likely headline in the next day's paper: "Post Reporter Dies in Hail of Bullets."

It had already been a harrowing trip through Fallujah, the heart of rebellion, revenge and bloodshed in the so-called Sunni Triangle of Iraq. Along with my driver, Falah, we had woven our way through the city to find ourselves blocked at every exit by masked insurgents who had won free rein after the withdrawal of U.S. Marines in May. We were worried because the rebels kidnapped foreigners and sometimes killed them. This was the town where, in April, ambushers killed and mutilated four American contractors and hung two of the burned bodies from a bridge over the Euphrates River. I can't print the full name of my driver because mere association with a foreign organization like The Washington Post can mean death. Someone could find him, even in big Baghdad.

Last Friday afternoon, when we had made it to the highway that leads from Fallujah back to the capital, we were relieved.

"Hamdulillah," Falah said as he picked up speed past the Fallujah interchange. "Thanks be to God."

To read the rest of the story, see

6:50 AM

Tuesday, June 15, 2004  
Spars and Stripes
The Pentagon puts the kibosh on its own newspaper

By Robert Schlesinger
Washington Monthly
May 2004

Last summer, as major combat operations in Iraq gave way to a wearying occupation effort, the military newspaper Stars & Stripes began to receive scores upon scores of letters from American troops complaining about conditions in-theater. Although senior officials at the Pentagon were making glowing public statements about morale, Stripes decided to take a closer look. Over the next few weeks, teams of Stripes correspondents fanned out across Iraq to assess how troops were faring, surveying some 2,000 American servicemen and women. Published last October as part of a series titled "Ground Truth," the results were alarming. Among other findings, nearly one third of all Army troops surveyed rated their unit's morale as "low" or "very low." Forty percent of those surveyed said that what they were doing was not close to or had nothing to do with what they had trained for, and a similar number said their missions were not clearly defined--fanning fears that reenlistments would drop steeply, exacerbating the military's post-9/11 overstretch.

The next day, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stepped up to the podium in front of the DOD's seal in the Pentagon's briefing room for regular sparring session with the press. It was here that Rumsfeld made his reputation for hectoring, demeaning, and entertaining reporters with his quasi-professorial, mostly uninformative answers to their questions. Rumsfeld is not the sort of senior official who encourages a lot of open discourse or the airing of bad news. Indeed, under his tenure the "Early Bird," the Pentagon's in-house news clipping service, last year began to exclude articles that reflected poorly on the administration's policies. So it was no surprise that when asked about low morale in the field, Rumsfeld responded by questioning the surveys' credibility in his usual Little League coach manner, cheerful but condescending. "I'm not an expert on it, but I'm told it was an informal and admittedly non-scientific poll," he said. "And one would have to say that if you take a couple hundred thousand people and looked across them, you're going to find people at every point in the spectrum in terms of their views and whether they're up or down or happy or sad or whatever."

Having attacked the message, the Pentagon leadership commenced attacking the messenger. Despite enjoying the biggest defense budget since Vietnam--and the $87 billion in emergency cash appropriated by Congress for the occupation--the secretary's office decided that Stars & Stripes was too big a drain on the budget, and that some belt-tightening would be needed at the paper. The paper's staff quickly figured out the message. "It's not about money," one anonymous Striper wrote on Jim Romenesko's media gossip Web site in January. "It's totally political. It's about trying to kill Stars & Stripes."

To read the rest of this story, see Washington Monthly

12:43 PM

This page is powered by Blogger.