If you want to know what it’ll be like for the 500-odd reporters “embedded” with the armed forces in and around Iraq, I’ve got a couple of links for you.
This one, via the invaluable J.D. Lasica, extracts some interesting points from the Pentagon’s ground rules for reporters. (There’s also a link to the full official document.) There will undoubtedly be some gears grinding in the actual practice, but these look like pretty reasonable and enlightened rules.
As for what reporters can expect from moment-to-moment life with the troops, turn to Joe Galloway. Joe covered Vietnam for UPI and wrote the book “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young.” (They turned it into a Mel Gibson movie last year.) For many years, he wrote for U.S. News & World Report; now he’s the military affairs reporter for Knight Ridder.
This piece from Editor & Publisher is the memo that Knight Ridder reporters get when they’re leaving for a war zone. It tells you how to survive. Here’s some sage advice from Joe:
- If things start happening suddenly and violently — incoming mortars or a chemical warfare alert — and you don’t know what to do, watch a sergeant and do what he does and what he tells you to do. Failing that, get down and stay down until the picture becomes clearer. If someone, anyone, tells you to move out or run or dig a hole, do so with vigor.
- Don’t sit down on the ground or flop down on a tank deck or lay down … without first taking a very good look for bugs, critters, snakes, scorpions, and the like. You will have a very painful war if you are nursing a scorpion bite on your butt.
… and something that no reporter should ever forget: engage with the people you’re covering:
- Don’t be a whiner and complainer. Don’t huddle in shared misery with other reporters. You are there to cover soldiers. Spend your waking hours with them, listening to them. You may be surprised to find your average infantry captain, while from a totally different culture, is often intelligent and a good companion.