Bar none, the best part of the news reporting on this war is the embedded journalists, especially those from Fox News. I’m also partial to Jules Crittenden, a reporter from The Boston Herald who’s with an armored unit of the 3rd ID. I think what I like best about it is the soldier’s-eye view. The closest most of us have ever come to combat is watching war movies—especially the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Yet, we wonder at what this most ancient form of human interaction, albeit violent and unnerving, is like. We meet the men (and now women) who come back from war and they are changed, not exactly the same person who went away. What the embedded reporters allow us to do is to glimpse at what warriors do and see and experience.
Beyond that, however, it also allows us to remain in contact with them. They aren’t just “our boys over there,” but they’re the Marine from Company B, 3 Battalion of the 7th Regiment. It’s the guy saying hello to his family, letting them know he’s okay despite last night’s fierce battles. The immediacy brings us to the battlefield and gives us a connection to our defenders of freedom that we’ve never had before.
There’s been much said about how the embedded program will change how many journalists see the military and make them more sympathetic to the guys and gals in green and brown and blue. I think it also changes us. It makes us aware of our own sacrifices, or to be more accurate their sacrifices, and to know what war is and what it isn’t.
It also provides an authority to the news reports that they wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s one thing for a reporter to tell me what’s going on up front as he stands in front of the CENTCOM headquarters, it’s another thing when Col. Ollie North, covered in dust, stands in front of LAVs and helicopters, interviewing the lieutenant or captain who led the assault last night, or when Greg Kelly relates how the mortar round knocked him off his feet, or when Rick Leventhal shows me live pictures of banned al Samoud missiles sitting on a flat-bed truck.
Instant satellite communications from around the world has changed news reporting, but it has changed the conduct and practice of war even more.