28 February 2012

Reflections on War Reporting

At The New York Times today there is this long thoughtful essay, part lament, part eulogy, part professional reflection, prompted by the recent deaths of journalists, killed covering the government repression in Syria. The author, Stephen Farrell, does an honest job of laying out the predicaments facing journalists and photographers trying to report on conflicts abroad. I think he does not quite face up to the systemic limits that emerge when we get the bulk of our information from embedded perspectives. I've commented on that in an intermittent series of posts here before. (I will note that the predicament of access and perspective posed by embedding system that has emerged in recent U.S. military adventures is really no different than that which exists among, say, the White House press corps. That point? Simple. Journalistic endeavors are structured by their interactions with government more or less regardless of where they take place. So, being sanctimonious about the embedding in military settings is unhelpful.) That said, Farrell provides insight into the predicament and poses the real question: If you don't like embedding, what is that alternative? Given the terms of war these days, it might be described as sending reporters out on suicide missions.

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