Reporters sense Iraq “war fatigue” setting in

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images The National Press Club on Thursday morning hosted two interesting panel discussions on the Iraq war and the press. Sponsored by Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center, the program featured reporters and media experts discussing lessons learned during the war and the relationship between the military and the press. Topics ranged from the role ...

599201_070921_rumsfeld_05.jpg
599201_070921_rumsfeld_05.jpg

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The National Press Club on Thursday morning hosted two interesting panel discussions on the Iraq war and the press. Sponsored by Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center, the program featured reporters and media experts discussing lessons learned during the war and the relationship between the military and the press. Topics ranged from the role of patriotism in reporting to constraints of embedded journalism. But the general mood of the talks were summed up by NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, who said:

The nation, the government, the Congress, the military and many in the Pentagon are suffering war fatigue.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The National Press Club on Thursday morning hosted two interesting panel discussions on the Iraq war and the press. Sponsored by Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center, the program featured reporters and media experts discussing lessons learned during the war and the relationship between the military and the press. Topics ranged from the role of patriotism in reporting to constraints of embedded journalism. But the general mood of the talks were summed up by NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, who said:

The nation, the government, the Congress, the military and many in the Pentagon are suffering war fatigue.

He and other panelist said this fatigue makes it difficult to inform readers of the reality on the ground, as people either don’t want to or are sick of hearing about it. We’ll see if the public has the stomach for the eventual pullout and its aftermath, which by all indications will be violent and long. 

Another popular point of discussion was the relationship between the press and the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld compared with Robert Gates. The panelist said Rumsfeld was antagonistic from the start (I mean, who can forget the briefings in which he questioned reporters’ intelligence?), while Gates has tried to convince the rank and file that the press is not the enemy.

The difference in the relationship between reporters and the military was best expressed in an anecdote from ABC national security correspondent Jonathan Karl. Under Rumsfeld, Karl said, the Pentagon’s “Early Bird” briefing—a daily electronic rundown of all defense-related news—started off with not with the press accounts themselves, but with corrections and letters to the editors (some unpublished), which challenged the stories. In the past, these items usually ran at the bottom of the e-mail, so placing them front and center was an obvious attempt to embarrass reporters for mistakes or for what the Pentagon thought were misleading stories. Now, under Gates, the corrections and letters have returned to their original place.

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