The Ethics of War Correspondents

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by King_of_the_Burpas, Feb 23, 2012.

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  1. Sorry Pigshyte F.

    We all know that journos are not the most popular people on this site.

    We also know that if you're posted anywhere nasty, or even doing PDT or tasked with showing off a new piece of kit, you're going to come across them, so we might as well get used to it.

    Some of them are very good indeed. Some of them are prima donnas, who have never had to shit in a hole. Some of them are well-meaning but really quite poor.

    None of them are properly trained. They do a Hostile Environments Course and a Battlefield First Aid course, both of which lasting less than a week. I would guess that none of them would pass a BFT.

    The issue is how to make the best of a bad job when it comes to the military and the press.

    (And no. I'm not hunting for a free story. I'm genuinely interested).
  2. Why? I suggested a new thread on the topic rather than having someone re-crayoning the other one.
  3. I'm sorry you thought I was crayoning, I thought I was speaking up for a great journalist.
  4. I didn't think you were crayoning, I was afraid that, like a moth to a candle at night, 'someone' would be attracted back to adopt the contrary position.

    But on the actual topic of the thread, I think most of them get the balance of risk and gain about right. Yes, sometimes people are put in peril to haul a journo's arse out of a tight spot. But then, people are also put in peril to carry out ill-conceived operations, protect businessmen, pull PMCs out of a pool of shit they've filled for themselves etc.

    Given what the nation as a whole gains from proper war reporting, I'd suggest that rescuing the occasional journo is a better reason for peril than saving the skins of some Blackwater mongs who are the authors of their own predicament.
  5. Crayoning. You do it all the ****ing time. Then you try taking the moral high ground.
  6. It also shows how much the CoC value their contribution. Unfortunately the Forces are often tasked to save far less worthy people, mercenaries as you have pointed out and also those too thick or too greedy to leave their ex-pat jobs until it is far too late. Oh, and Civil Servants in Libya carrying secret lap tops. :wink:
  7. Brotherton Lad

    Brotherton Lad LE Reviewer

    The 'anti' stance of some of the military towards the press strikes me as very recent, last 5 years or so. Not sure how much that is down to the general antipathy in the country as a whole.

    In the 70s and 80s we were trained not to engage with the press, largely to do with NI where everything had to go through official media ops channels. Then in the 90s that all changed, probably starting in Bosnia, where by and large the media and the British Army were largely singing off the same song sheet. (Not always, though, I got my fingers burnt once when our interests diverged, but the journo had a story to chase.)

    I suspect some of the problem is the embedding, in Bosnia the media weren't officially embedded, though they would like to tag along and we did live and socialise side by side.

    I think there will always be a need for independent and conscientious reporting.

  8. Can someone please keep an eye on the crèche?

    Little bikkies has escaped onto an adult thread again.
  9. Thanks for proving my point. You just can't help yourself can you?
  10. In the 70's and 80's there was no general public support for the Armed Forces. We were seen as strike breakers and the indirect cause of bombs going off on the Mainland.

    Journalists generally were supportive of the Forces and what they were trying to achieve as well as the circumstances in which they existed. Soldiers were generally grateful for anyone who showed any form of support. Journalistic cover of the Falklands War was very positive and highly supportive and served to bring the exploits of the average soldier, not just the heroes and officers, to the attention of the greater public. Public support post FI was as short-lived as the war itself. Then came the First Gulf War, pretty much as the FI. Bosnia was all about the victims of genocide but it has been the drawn out experience of Afghanistan and Iraq that has really captured the public heart and gained support for the Forces.

    Perhaps it's now, because public support is so high, that soldiers feel they are far superior to the very people who helped them gain the public eye. Yes, what Morgan did was despicable but he was only one. The phone hacking was distasteful in the extreme but only because of its victims. If phone hacking Blair had exposed him for what he was I would have called it legitimate, similarly others who set out to fool the public or even worse defraud them. That they chose nonentities like footballers was stupid but that they chose grieving victims was inexcusable. They weren't looking to expose anything or right a wrong, they were out to make money and that was inexcusable.

    I don't read the Sun but it is a paper aimed at the common person and pitched in such a way as to gain and retain their attention. They have a very egalitarian approach to how they write up the news to ensure that it is understood by the vast majority of the population in an easy-to-understand way. They also help to raise millions for injured Servicemen and women. I personally find the Millies cringeworthy but there is no denying that they have captured the public imagination and they are keeping the Services high up in the public eye and standing. Yes they will report wrongdoing in the Armed Forces, why should they not? It is the duty of a soldier to represent his regiment and the Army in the best possible light, if they are reporting wrong doing it is because the individual soldier has failed the rest of the Services not the Sun or any other paper.

    Perhaps the Services should take a good look at the benefits a supportive press has brought them and focus on those rather than the odd negative aspect where some amongst us seem to feel that a squaddie is beyond reproach and should never be reported on negatively.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. MiT

    Although I agree with most of what you say, and no doubt there are some good ethical journalists out there. For me the hypocrisy of most journalists and their story at any cost attitude grips me. It is not just their attitude to the Forces but to people they see as below them i.e. the people who actually read their crap, or watch the ramblings on the box.

    24hr news is the problem here as there is no opportunity to reflect and maybe craft a decent article as they are afraid to be out scooped by a rival, so detail accuracy and ethics are thrown to the wind so they can seen to be more up to date and therefore one step ahead of their rivals.
  12. There are certainly a lot of walts in the self-described category of 'freelance war correspondent', also a lot of youngsters who perhaps may be tempted to push it too far in an attempt to make their names. It is in the nature of youth to have more balls than brains.

    Those working for reputable papers and agencies usually have their activities curtailed by insurers, lawyers and 'risk managers'.
  13. It's a skill better developed in some rather than in others. However scoops are one thing but good, accurate and fair reporting is another. The true reporting generally comes after the scoop. I see the story at any cost as a determination to find out the truth and to get that truth out to the larger World. I'm not aware of many who are condescending to either Service people or their readership, I shouldn't imagine they would retain a very wide circulation if they continued to treat their readers as lesser mortals.

    In my experience, the good reporters will get a scoop and give the bare bones of the situation and then do a follow-up with an in-depth analysis. Even with 24hr news which, I must admit, I have no great fondness the scoop is usually along the lines of 'reports are coming out of....' and a fleshier piece is put in later. The real journalism occurs mainly in the broadsheets by intelligent and well researched reporters who are used to cutting through the bullshit to get to the heart of the matter.
  14. Beg to differ the Sun, Mirror, NoTW (as Was) and even some of the broadsheets take great delight in screwing people over because of things people have meant to have done, but the reporters who actually write the stories are just as morally deficient as those they are writing about.

    I have to be honest and say I no longer read the papers, or even listen to the news beyond the headlines, as I find it nauseating and a waste of time and money.
  15. That's certainly true and the new gen Tim Pages are a bloody nuisance.

    It's interesting that most posters (apart from The Brigade of Crayons) are focussing on the attitude of the press towards the military.

    My point was more to do with training. When you phone the MoD to ask for an embed or an interview, they never ask how much training you've had. They'll Google your stuff, I'm sure and if they know you and find out where you've been, they'll take it for granted you know what you're doing.

    That is not always the case. When some journos get on the ground with a unit, terrible mistakes can be made; mistakes that put lives at risk. A couple of examples:

    1. A German reporter with a brilliant white FJ and helmet who could be seen for miles, giving away the pos of the patrol she was with.
    2. A Brit (namely me) who couldn't keep up with the RMs in Afg (gosh it was hot) and caused the patrol to split while medics did the rehydration drills.
    3. A reporter who decided to photograph the snout in a village in Helmand who was passing info to the British patrol commander. That wasa the last time the snout ever said anything.
    4. A reporter who picked up a souvenir Soviet belt, which was booby trapped. It didn't go off.

    There are loads more.

    Seems to me (not in the current case, of course) that there are far too many journos running about with no idea really what they're supposed to do to keep themselves or the soldiers around them safe.