FRIDAY’S LETTERS: Thoughts On Improving War Coverage

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By: E&P Staff

In today’s installment, Christopher White Walker, Editor & Publisher of the Emporia (Kan.) Gazette, offers ideas on how journalists can improve their coverage of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Recently, The Associated Press came under fire for its coverage of the war. While the AP may be getting the criticism, all the media could improve their reporting.

The problem is that every morning, people hear the same story being reported by all news agencies. The daily story usually revolves around soldiers who were killed by roadside bombs the day before.

With news agencies chasing the “big” news story, they lose sight of the smaller, but just as important stories.

There are hundreds of thousands of troops supporting the war effort. Every day, people are on the ground and in the air fighting terrorism and rebuilding the country through reconstruction efforts. We need journalists telling us the who, what, when, where, why and how of those stories.

Perhaps war journalists of today need to look back at how war reporting was done by their predecessors. For instance, former Emporia Gazette editor William Lindsay White spent much of his career overseas covering World War II, Korean and Vietnam for newspapers and radio.

In The New Republic, Bruce Bliven summed up W.L.’s reporting style: “He prefers the small picture to the big one, and by concentrating on what happens to a few individuals, he often succeeds in conveying great events better than he ever could by painting on a broad canvas.”

His reporting was so vivid that that many of his stories were developed into movies and books.

War coverage needs to be more than just reporting who died yesterday. It needs to be about people and what they are doing and the progress or setbacks that are happening.

When people can connect with people, the events will seem more real and Americans may become interested in what is happening again.

The media need to quit chasing one another for “one story” and start reporting what is going on.

Christopher White Walker
Editor & Publisher
The Emporia Gazette


Ed’s Note: Readers continue to respond to earlier reports that FEMA had asked photographers not to take pictures of the dead in New Orleans. The agency has since clarified its remarks, saying the earlier reports did not reflect a FEMA directive.

How morbid is our curiosity to “document” this recovery event? Let’s focus on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. Sure, it does not give us the shock value, but we are all ready for some good news. There is good news to report.

Gary L. Harding
System Administrator/Data Security Officer
The Indianapolis Star


Dead Uncle on the Front Page?

He wouldn’t be seen on the front page if he were upside-down. There are pictures like this.

Journalists should also be concerned about The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other outlets that refuse to run existing photos like this. I’ve seen smiles on people boating on the front page of the Washington Post Web site, but not dead people on the street.

Bill Bergman

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