Close Enough to Count the Casualties

"Wars often have had a profound impact on journalism," writes former journalism professor Betty Medsger. For example, the trend toward "news as entertainment" began with the war in the Persian Gulf in early 1991 when "the military, prepared by its 1980's marketing classes in how to sell a war, set new restrictions and higher levels of censorship that guaranteed coverage would be controlled by the military." That trend continues today, as "marketing practices honed by the Pentagon in the brief Gulf War now seem to be the standard M.O. of the military in this war." Those techniques include preventing reporters from seeing "the dark side of war -- such as the bodies of innocent civilians," and managing bad new "by at first denying it, then by restricting access to the truth, then by acknowledging that something slightly bad happened, then by describing it as an isolated and, therefore, unimportant incident that is inevitable 'in the fog of war,' then let it dribble out 'in controlled seepage' over days or weeks so the fullness of the bad news never appears in one big significant breaking news story."