The Coming News Blackout?

Some news organizations are turning down embeds not because of combat -- but because they might get their gear stolen.

Earlier this week, I complained about the lack of coverage some mainstream media outlets have been giving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, specifically the lack of substantive on-the-ground reporting of what our troops are facing on a daily basis.

In a similar vein, blogger Michael Yon weighs in with another dispatch from Iraq on the sorry state of military/media relations, and provides a hint as to why we don’t see as much embedded coverage as we did earlier in the war:

Someone from Fox News called me a few nights ago, saying Fox had to turn down a two-week embed due to security reasons. Not security reasons meaning that they might get shot or blown up, but security reasons that their gear might get stolen on base. I have written before about how, even now into the 5th year of the war in Iraq, there are still are no dedicated resources —particularly, secure places for press to live and work so that they can launch off into combat embeds — on the major bases in Baghdad. Fox News, faced with staying in tents with itinerant workers who today might be in Baghdad, and tomorrow in Calcutta or Los Angeles (with someone else’s gear), turned down a two-week embed with our forces. ABC no longer embeds with combat forces due to the sheer danger of the combat, and now Fox has no plans to embed until at least May, simply due to security and workspace on the bases themselves.

Hardly an apologist for the media, Yon has not just been chronicling the war from the front lines, but has also been offering some devastating critiques on how the military often makes it unnecessarily difficult for reporters to get out into the field with the troops. The result of this is the the American military is losing the media war with its enemies.

In a battle against non-state actors, such as the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the wider fight against groups like al Qaeda — whose As Sahab media arm has been extremely successful in disseminating the group’s message throughout the world — the American military needs to get up to speed, and start doing a better job in helping reporters tell their story.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.