What ethics for combat reporting?

Dudman, Richard
November 1970
Columbia Journalism Review;Winter1970/1971, Vol. 9 Issue 4, p35
This article discusses the journalistic ethics suited in covering a particular war. In the July 1970 column of Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall he condemned the author and two of his colleagues for the lack of professionalism in getting captured, for regarding their captors as human beings rather than the enemy and above all, for considering themselves to be objective observers and reporters, not committed to one side of the other. The author believes that news correspondent must try to be a detached observer, a neutral who can report what he can learn about the aims and actions on both sides without the burden of thinking in terms of we and they. According to the author, behaving this way in Guatemala in 1954 meant trying to learn whether the CIA was the moving force behind Castillo Armas' little rebel army that ousted the leftist regime. In the Dominican Republic in 1966, this standard meant that journalists have to repeatedly drive or walk from one place to another to talk to the rebel leaders and see what was happening on the other side of the barricades. The Indochina War is a classic case where the responsibilities of a correspondent go far beyond merely reporting on the U.S. side as a special adjunct to the U.S. military forces. The author also said that if a journalist is accompanying a military unit on an operation, he has to go by the rules.


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