Booted journalists no surprise

Before the war began, a lot of us had a bad feeling about the concept of embedded journalism. This past week, as the military started expelling journalists from their respective units, a collective “I told you so” could be heard from the anti-embedding camp. But really, what did Geraldo expect?

Having the U.S. military oversee what information reaches the masses is a very unnerving situation. They control what reporters see, where they go and what they can say. Embedding reporters ties the journalists’ hands and poses a serious threat to journalistic integrity. And for all the advantages of trekking around the Iraqi desert with the ones fighting the battle, there are serious problems that affect what we see.

But we knew that. And more importantly, journalists knew that going in.

It came as no surprise this week that a small handful of journalists were expelled from Iraq for breaching any one of the more than 50 embed regulations. These restrictions range from divulging locations of forces to releasing names of military installations.

Understandably, these rules are set up because “broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger lives.” But whether you agree or not, these rules are also very specific. If you draw a map of Iraq in the sand and draw out the military’s next move when you’ve been told not to (a lá Geraldo Ri vera), you deserve to be booted, if for no other reason than your own stupidity.

Some media outlets had the foresight to realize these problems before the war began. CBC, for example, made a conscious decision not to send any embedded journalists. Because of that decision, CBC now gets to run the same “pool” reporting feeds as the networks with their own people on the ground, and it is also forced to work harder for the stories, resulting in better investigated, more insightful journalism. More importantly, there is nowhere to be kicked out of.

The 600 journalists now embedded with the U.S. military have their hands tied, and they have no one to blame but themselves. Their news editors deliberately chose to send reporters in, knowing full well the consequences. When they break very clear and very specific rules, these journalists seal their own fate. They should leave quietly and the world shouldn’t be surprised or complain.

Instead, just see it as proof positive that yes, we told you so.

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