Journalist feels neutral-to-negative about being profiled by the military

P.J. Tobia, a writer and reporter based in Kabul, has gotten his hands on his Rendon report - the background brief that the Stars and Stripes recently reported is put together by the Pentagon to profile every journalist who applies to embed with U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In an essay on True/Slant, Tobia gives us some highlights of his dossier, which he says feels like reading his stalker’s diary. An excerpt:

Tobia continues to humanize US soldiers by quoting mainly US Military personnel and detailing the soldiers’ backgrounds, homes and reaction to fighting in Afghanistan. His most recent article is neutral-to-positive while his previous work has been neutral or neutral-to-negative.

The profiles, known as Rendon reports for the D.C. public relations company hired by the Pentagon for $1.5 million to write them up, also kind of reads like a first grade report card:

Tobia tends to write lengthy feature articles that are highly narrative. His articles are often written in first person and may be considered commentaries rather than hard news pieces. His articles are thought provoking as he often asks questions rather than making conclusions.

He writes with an outside observer’s perspective, but his articles show he can identify and empathize with US troops.

You half expect it to laud him for not running with scissors and then go to say something like, “He shares pens with other reporters when theirs run dry, doesn’t complain when he is made to sleep on the floor during field operations and has mastered the ABC’s of military acronyms, but sometimes talks too much during press briefings.”

As Greg Marx wrote in the Kicker yesterday, stay tuned for more CJR coverage of military reporting in the Sept./Oct. issue, coming soon to a mailbox near you.

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.