Some Embedded Journalists Seek Independence

By: Rafe Bartholomew and J.J. McGrath

With dramatic images of the so-called Fall of Baghdad on Wednesday doubtlessly in their collective mind’s eye, several newspaper journalists who previously had been embedded with U.S. military units satisfied by the end of last week their urge to merge with the nonembedded reporters and photographers who now have more freedom to move about Iraq’s capital city.

Around the same time, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times each had an embed who swapped one military host for another. “It’s still too early [to scrap battlefield coverage]. There’s still fighting going on in some places,” USA Today World Editor Elisa Tinsley told E&P.

Then, too, a number of editors have advised their reporters and photographers in Iraq that the capital should be considered neither safe nor secure. As a result, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., all have counseled their embedded journalists to stay with the military units they have been covering.

Pooh-poohing any suggestion of stability in the wake of the collapse of civil authority in the city — as evidenced by the many images of the thieves of Baghdad caught in the act of looting — Andrew S. Ross, executive foreign/national editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, said, “The only thing we’re telling our reporters is not to listen to all that guff and stay with the military where they’re safe.”

But The Washington Post is steering a very different course, with two of its nine embeds having bid farewell to their MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), according to a story in The New York Times on Friday. “We have to be able to go here and there,” Phil Bennett, the Post‘s assistant managing editor for foreign news, told the Times, “and that has to be based on our decision-making rather than military decision-making.”

See E&P‘s complete coverage of Iraq and the Press.

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