American University
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Being there: United States media access during the Gulf War

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:01 authored by Judith Raine Baroody

This research analyzed the formulation and implementation of Department of Defense policy on media access during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm of 1990-91. The study drew on theory related to the role of the press in society, influence of the media, and in-group/out-group relations. Data was generated by in-depth interviews of journalists and Department of Defense officials involved in public affairs aspects of the war, in addition to analysis of primary source documents. It offers a detailed case history of military-media negotiations about Gulf War press policy. The study found that military and media groups differed in the way each framed its vision of the role of the press, with the result that the two groups had separate notions of the boundaries of appropriate practices for journalists during war. All respondents expressed the idea that a war correspondent's task is to communicate activities of the U.S. military to the American people, but beyond that, there was wide variation in how they saw the press' role. While media respondents emphasized their roles as watchdogs or chroniclers of history, military respondents noted the media's function as "force multipliers" to boost morale or confound the enemy. Reporters saw their jobs as interpreters of events, while some military respondents believed reporters should give facts without interpretation. The interviews suggest that the two groups hold different views of the function of the press. The media view requiring maximum disclosure of information corresponds to a social responsibility model, while the military view limiting power of the individual for the sake of the whole corresponds to an authoritarian model. The findings demonstrate that separate groups in one society can act in accordance with two different models of the press simultaneously. This failure to achieve a single vision of the press, added to advances in news-gathering technology and an inconclusive legal tradition on the issue, indicate that U.S. government policy on press access requires refinement to avoid the need for repeated military-media negotiations when the nation is at war.







Ph.D. American University 1992.


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