In a way, you can’t blame the Pentagon for wanting to keep reporters away from the action. Since the draft ended, few writers have ever served in the military, so they don’t have much idea of what they’re writing about. Though it’s true that any good reporter can learn most any beat, it’s a little late for tutorials when bullets are flying.
So the Defense Department has taken a page from the playbook of any good PR effort: teach the beat. If a big company has a newbie reporter on its hands, the smartest thing the company can do is take the time to educate the new kid. It makes friends, and it gives the company a great opportunity to introduce its own spin from the get-to.
The Pentagon is running a Media Boot Camp, teaching journalists what it’s like to go to war. It’s a fine idea. One the one hand, it gives reporters some idea about how the military works and what they might face in a combat zone. On the other, it’s certain to engender some badly needed mutual respect between reporters and brass. And that can only help in getting accurate, timely and non-hysterical war reportage with actual eyewitness reports.