Friday, April 4, 2003

OTTAWA DAILY TIMES: Embed With the Media

KUWAIT – It’s a word that, by now, if you’re watching any sort of news coverage about Operation Iraqi Freedom, you’ve heard hundreds of times.


“We now go to our embedded reporter…”

“…who is embedded with…”

More than five hundred members of the media, and close to ten of our own AFN correspondents (including myself, embedded with V Corps out of Germany), are also members of this elite group of journalists that is the new catch phrase of the media.

Operation Iraq Freedom is the biggest campaign ever to involve members of the media in a war, as it happens. It’s the chance of a lifetime that one journalist for the New York Times relishes.

“Well, I just read about it and it sounded like a very interesting idea. I was quite frankly pleased to get out here, see what it was like, and do it.”

Harold Weinarub is actually an entertainment correspondent for the Times out of Los Angeles. He got the call from his editor several months ago to see if he was willing to trade in the bright lights of Hollywood for the blazing sun of the Kuwaiti desert.

“To be honest, I had no idea what to expect, what it would be like, and when you read about being embedded, it’s all very hypothetical. For me at least, it’s been a very positive experience.”

Embedding is nothing new. During World War 2, journalists like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite were assigned as war correspondents to units making the jump into France or the Allied landing at Normandy. Vietnam even had several reporters attached to units, though at the time they weren’t known as embeds.

What is new in this war is the scale of the coverage and the technology.

Most embedded reporters have instant access to cable news channels or their newspapers by way of a videophone, or even a satellite uplink. Gone are the days when networks and papers would have to wait for a film canister or the mail to be delivered. They get the news from their embedded correspondents as it happens, right on the ground. Even we have a videophone that is used to send daily reports back to our headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

But the technology is only as successful as the story, or even the storyteller.

Weinraub is also embedded with V Corps. This isn’t the first time he’s seen combat.

“I spent two years in the Army and I covered Vietnam, so that’s why they asked me.”

As I glance at the chemical protection mask fastened to his side, I asked him if this war was more dangerous for him than the war in Vietnam.

“I don’t know about danger, but the different element here is a chemical attack. It’s new. My wife is, as you can imagine, really nervous, and I try to assure her that I’m not in any real danger.”

His regular entertainment beat with the New York Times usually involves interviewing famous actors and entertainers.

The only stars Weinraub sees on this assignment are the ones on a General’s uniform. He’s eager to get into Iraq.

“I just want to get up there, whether by convoy or helicopter, and I think it’s going to be in the cards. It’s where everything is going on.”

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