War and Terror

“Government has no legitimate claim to sole control of secrecy decisions, even on matters of common defense,” Barton Gellman, a Washington Post project reporter observed when he spoke about reporting on stories such as the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. “The lawful application of a classified stamp is the beginning, not the end, of my inquiry.” In excerpts from two lectures he delivered at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Gellman describes the struggle between the government’s urge to suppress secrets and the watchdog role journalists play by unearthing evidence. The military put roadblocks in the way of UPI senior editor Dan Olmsted and reporter Mark Benjamin as they worked on stories involving Iraq War veterans. Olmsted details their encounters with military personnel as they tried to report on squalid conditions and substandard health care given at military bases in the United States and about possible effects of a controversial malaria drug. Photographer Nina Berman visited Americans wounded in Iraq as they coped with severe injuries, and she created portraits of them in images and words. “Lately, I’ve been asking them for their definitions of freedom and democracy, a question that often leaves them puzzled,” she writes.

Jeffrey Fleishman, Berlin bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, writes about his reporting in Iraq to demonstrate the essential role foreign correspondents play in giving firsthand accounts of what audiences back home are told is happening. Anthony Shadid, who won a 2004 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Iraq for The Washington Post, delivered this year’s Joe Alex Morris, Jr. Memorial Lecture at the Nieman Foundation. He spoke of consequences his reporting had on sources who trusted him and the escalating dangers journalists in Iraq face and how some respond. “In a chaotic, precarious landscape we’re arming ourselves and fortifying against danger without understanding the implications of that process,” he said. When former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis spoke at a conference about national security and a free press, he expressed concern about the inadequacy of coverage of the Bush administration’s record on civil liberties after September 11, 2001. Also, images of coffins from Iraq appear on our pages, as do words about what happened due to their publication.

Steven Kull, who directs the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, shares findings from a study about misperceptions Americans have about the war in Iraq. The wide variance in misperceptions, connected to a person’s primary source of news, “strongly suggests that the way that the press reported the news played a role,” he writes. Susan Moeller, who authored the study “Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” describes why many in the press “amplified the administration’s voice” rather than investigating its claims. David Domke, who heads the journalism department at the University of Washington, examines press response to “characteristics of the Bush administration’s political fundamentalism” and to the President’s “overtly religious language.” David D. Perlmutter, a journalism professor at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication and Lesa Hatley Major, a PhD candidate at the school, examine how news organizations decided which pictures of the Fallujah violence to publish, as they weighed news value against sensationalism.

How journalists respond psychologically to the violence they report on is written about from three perspectives. Anthony Feinstein, a psychiatrist and author of “Dangerous Lives: War and the Men and Women Who Report It,” tells what he has learned from journalists about why some reporters choose to cover war and the impact this has on them and their colleagues, including the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder. Roger Simpson, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the University of Washington, describes the value for news organizations in offering training and support for those who report on violent situations: “The absence of that support is costing news media in terms of staff energy, productivity and morale,” he says. And William J. Drummond, a journalism professor at the University of California at Berkeley, shares what he learned in developing and teaching an experimental course on emotional balance. “… journalism education needs to make self-care a central part of its focus,” he writes.

From a diary he kept while photographing the war in Chechnya, Stanley Greene shares his response to the violence he documented. “No man or woman can view a field of battle and witness so much death and destruction without becoming detached and callous,” he writes. From his book, “Open Wound: Chechnya 1994 to 2003,” we see his photographs. French journalist Anne Nivat, author of “Chienne de Guerre,” tells of the dangers in reporting from Chechnya and writes that “as journalists—serving as witnesses to this brutality—we pay an emotional price for the work we do.” Thomas de Waal, Caucasus editor of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) who reported from Chechnya in the mid-1990’s, writes about his attachment to “the place and the people” and how he relies now on other journalists to learn about its fate. Timur Aliev, editor of Chechenskoe Obshchestvo and the Chechnya coordinator for IWPR, writes about the vulnerability he, his newspaper, and other independent-minded journalists experience as pressures build to “practice a sort of internal self-censorship” due to vigilant government monitoring of the press.


Barbie Zelizer, the Raymond Williams Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, tells us about “Reporting War: Journalism in Wartime,” a forthcoming book she coedited. Kay Mills, a former Los Angeles Times editorial writer, describes how her book, “Changing Channels: The Civil Rights Case That Transformed Television,” examines the impact a 1960’s Mississippi case about race has had on TV news and the Federal Communications Commission. New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston, the author of “Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—and Cheat Everybody Else” details the path he’s taken in reporting on tax since he set out nearly a decade ago to focus not on what politicians say about the tax system but on how and how well it actually works and for whom. And Dante Chinni, a senior associate at the Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington, D.C., summarizes findings from the project’s first annual report on the state of the U.S. news media and explores how the Internet might offer news organizations ways to deal with some industry challenges.

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