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Television Coverage Of The Vietnam War
And Its Implications For Future Conflicts
CSC 1984
SUBJECT AREA Topical Issues
                       The Writing Program
                    Command and Staff College
                       Major Cass D. Howell
                    United States Marine Corps
                            April 6, 1984
Thesis Statement:  From the perspective of the U.S.
Military, television coverage of the Vietnam War had a
detrimental impact on the conduct of that war; policies on
television coverage of future conflicts should be revised so
as to not repeat past mistakes.
    A.  Questions in Retrospect
    B.  Origination of Vietnam War Television
        Coverage Policies
        1.   World War II - Vietnam Press Comparison
        2.   Media-Government Distrust
        3.   Growth of Television
    A.  The Fairness Doctrine
    B.  The Politics of the Press
        1.   Liberal, Anti-war Disposition
        2.   Public Perception of Journalists
    C.  Bias in the News
        1.   Personal Feelings are Reflected in News
        2.   Documentation by Research
    D.  Molding Perception
        1.   The Role of Gatekeepers
        2.   Methods of Manipulation
             a. Selective Reporting
             b. Closing Statement
             c. "Controversial"
             d. Exaggerated Significance
             e. Covert Editorials
             f. Overt (but unlabeled) Editorials
    A.  The Living Room War
    B.  TET, The Turning Point
    C.  The Press in a Free Society
    D.  Impact on the American Psyche
    A.  Implications
        1.   Historial Perspective
        2.   Detriments Will Continue
    B.  Recommended Policy Change
        1.   Exclude Television from War Zone
        2.   Don't Repeat Past Mistakes
                   TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter                                                 Page
    I.      Introduction                                 1
    II.     Origination of Vietnam War Television        4
            Coverage Policies
   III.     The Myth of Objectivity                      9
            *  The Fairness Doctrine                    10
            *  The Politics of the Press                12
            *  Bias in the News                         16
            *  Molding Perception                       29
    IV.     The Impact of Television War Coverage,      49
            and the Press in a Free Society
            *  The Living Room War                      49
            *  TET, The Turning Point                   53
            *  The Press in a Free Society              55
            *  Impact on the American Psyche            58
    V.      Implications for Future Conflicts,          63
            and Recommended Revision of Current
            Television Policies
Appendix A:  A Questionnaire for the Networks           67
                         CHAPTER I
        "You know you never defeated us on the
        battlefield," said the American colonel.
        The North Vietnamese colonel pondered
        this remark a moment.  "That may be so,"
        he replied, "but it is also irrelavent."
                          Conversation in Hanoi, April 19751
    This project began with the question, "How could a
country win all the battles, and yet still lose the war?"
How could a country which is as rich and powerful as our
own, superior in every measurable category of military
strength, emerge as the loser with one of the world's
smallest and poorest countries?  Why are our greatest
victories remembered as defeats?  Why would a Congress that
approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 with only two
dissenting votes turn its back on its South Vietnamese ally
when the North Vietnamese launched a full-scale conventional
invasion only eight years later?
    In seeking answers to these questions it became readily
apparent that the American defense of South Vietnam was
brought to its unhappy conclusion not by a failure of
American arms, but rather by a failure of American will.
Former President Nixon said it this way:
         The War in Vietnam was not lost on the
         battlefields of Vietnam.  It was lost
         in the halls of Congress ... in the
         editorial rooms of great newspapers ...
         and in the classrooms of great
    Surveys abound which document the shift of national
sentiment from strongly supportive of the war effort to the
point where 65% of the American public believed that U.S.
involvement in Vietnam was not just a mistake, but
"immoral."3  If this reported shift of support is accurate,
and I believe that it is, the question that then arises is
"What accounts for this change of beliefs?"  And, equally
important, why did American resolve evaporate during
Vietnam, in contrast to all of our other foreign wars?  In
short, what was unique about the Vietnam War?
    It is clear that in virtually every respect the U.S.
effort in Vietnam had far more similarities than differences
in respect to previous American conflicts.  Like almost all
of our military engagements it was a foreign war, fought by
a citizen army against a dedicated and capable foe.  It was
not the longest (U.S. Marines fought an anti-guerrilla war
in Nicaragua almost continuously for nearly thirty years),
bloodiest, or toughest, nor even the most savage.  And, for
all the exotic weapons that were utilized, it was still
primarily the foot soldier's war.
    No, the great difference between the Vietnam War and its
predecessors lay not in its conduct, but its perception, an
image that was shaped by a powerful new influence--
television.  It was this medium, more than any other single
factor, which was instrumental in the shift of American
public and Congressional opinion from a position strongly
supporting to one strongly condemning the American defense
of South Vietnam.
    The questions that are the subject of this research
paper are threefold:
    1.  Was the television coverage of the Vietnam War
fairly done?
    2.  What was the impact of televised war on the American
    3.  What do the lessons of television coverage of the
Vietnam War portend for the ability of United States Armed
Forces to prevail in future conflicts?
                         CHAPTER II
    In surveying the Vietnam War as portrayed on television,
a logical starting point would be documentation of the
evolvement of the military-television relationship in the
war zone.  Unfortunately, there is a decided lack of
information available on this particular subject, partly due
to the relative youth of television news, and the feeling on
the part of governmental branches that television is just
another part of the press.  For those reasons, it would be
beneficial to briefly review the military-press relationship
as a whole in previous decades and compare that to media
coverage during the Vietnam era.
    Although the history of the military-press relationship
is long and varied, we shall only examine events since the
beginning of World War II.  World War II is an important
starting point for viewing press coverage in Vietnam,
primarily because policies and attitudes contrast so
markedly from the former to the latter.  In World War II
there was a strong degree of cooperation with the government
by the press.  For example, the Executive News Director of
the Associated Press, Byron Price, served as the
government's chief censor at the request of President
Roosevelt.  The press voluntarily established a "Code of
Wartime Practices" which was used to help its reporters and
editors avoid inadvertent disclosure of harmful
information.4  Civilian journalists often became military
press information officers for the duration, and those who
remained in the employ of civilian radio and newspapers
usually wore American military uniforms while deployed with
U.S. forces.  Reports were often filed that began "Our
forces moved ...." or "We began the assault of ...."5
This spirit of unified loyalty carried over into the Korean
War, where the press asked for, and received, governmental
    If the 1940's and 1950's could be called the "era of
good feelings," the 1960's could be called the "era of
downright animosity."  These ill feelings had their roots in
the 1960 incident where CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was
shot down in his U-2 while on a reconnaissance mission over
the Soviet Union.  The State Department issued a release
created by the CIA that indicated that the aircraft was a
weather plane that had simply strayed off course, and that
any border violation was entirely unintentional.  This story
came crashing down six days later when President Eisenhower
was forced to admit the true circumstances of the mission
when confronted by documented proof by Premier Nikita
Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.  That began the celebrated
"credibility gap" that was to widen during the following
years, and was also instrumental in furthering mistrust of
governmental agencies that persists to this day.7
    The Kennedy Administration was soon involved in its own
debate with the news media when the New York Times and CBS
announced the imminent Bay of Pigs invasion of Castro's
Cuba.  When the attempted invasion was crushed, President
Kennedy was furious at the media and urged that the press
ask themselves, "Is it in the interest of national
security?" before running potentially harmful stories.  This
plea for self-restraint was rejected by the media.8  "If the
press is waiting for a declaration of war," Kennedy fumed,
"before it imposes the self discipline of combat conditions
then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat
to our security."9
    During this same period American military and State
Department representatives in South Vietnam clashed with
journalists on a frequent basis.  Reporters charged that
U.S. agencies were lying about the extent of American
involvement in the developing war, the performance of the
South Vietnamese army, and especially  about the progress
that was being made in winning the war.  They accused
American officials of trying to distort, evade, and manage
the news process and ridiculed the daily military briefings
for the press as the "Five O'Clock Follies."  David
Halberstam, of The New York Times, was at the forefront of
those who held U.S. officials and their views in contempt,
and was vociferous in his outspoken criticism of the conduct
of the war effort.10  Not surprisingly, the U.S. officials,
convinced of their honesty and faithful to the American
cause, branded these critics as irresponsible, inexperienced
cynics whose prime concern was promoting their own self-
image and reputation by generating controversy and disputing
official U.S. pronouncements at every opportunity.  John
Mecklin, who was Chief of U.S. Information Service
(U.S.I.S.) during this period said, "The root of the problem
was that what newsmen believed to be lies was exactly what
the mission geniunely believed and was reporting to
Washington."11  So began a long running feud that was to
characterize government and military press relations for
much of the Vietnam War.*
    It was against this background that television began its
first significant coverage of the Vietnam War.  Unlike World
War II and the Korean War, coverage of this conflict would
*Ironically, the war against the Viet Cong was, on the
whole, being won to the extent that North Vietnam finally
despaired of an internal overthrow of the government and
sought a solution in traditional military terms.  South
Vietnam fell to a North Vietnam conventional army invasion
that swept the length of the South in 1975.
be unconstrained by virtually any kind of official
government censorship, making it the most openly reported
war (at least in South Vietnam) in modern times, perhaps
ever.  Not only was there not military censorship, but the
military went to great lengths to provide transportation,
lodging, meals, and briefings to a U.S. press corps that
eventually grew to battalion-size strength.
    As the size of the media in Vietnam expanded, so did its
impact back home.  In 1963, NBC and CBS doubled the length
of their national news coverage (from 15 to 30 minutes) and
in that same year Americans reported that, for the first
time ever, most of them received the majority of their news
from television instead of newspapers and magazines.12
Technology kept pace during this period also, with a steady
increase in the number, size, and quality of color
television sets in American homes.  Transportation time of
news footage was originally about twenty hours from Vietnam
to New York, although this would be decreased dramatically
with the availability of communications satellites later in
the war.
    It was these factors--a doubting, often critical press,
expanding and increasingly powerful television networks, and
unparalleled access to a war zone that set the stage for the
decisive event of the American defense of South Vietnam--
the erosion of the willpower of the American people.
                        CHAPTER III
                   THE MYTH OF OBJECTIVITY
         Of all the myths of journalism, objectivity
         is the greatest.13
                               ABC Commentator Bill Moyers
    One of the most cherished notions of corporate
television is that T.V. news is a factual, unbiased account
of the happenings of the world, in which all sides of issues
are equally and fairly presented.  Walter Cronkite proclaims
it so in this statement about the objectivity of
         But we are professional journalists ....
         We are trying to reach an objective state, we
         are trying to be objective.  We have been
         taught from the day we went to school, when we
         began to know we wanted to be journalists,
         integrity, truth, honesty, and a definite
         attempt to be objective.  We try to present
         the news as objectively as possible, whether
         we like or don't like it.14
    Certainly an admirable standard, and also one that is
the official position of the major network news agencies.
Richard Salant, Mr. Cronkite's superior at CBS said:  "We
believe in objective coverage.  Our reporters do not cover
stories from their point of view.  They are presenting them
from  nobodies  point of view."  And at ABC, former news
president James Hagerty stated:  "We're trying to be
objective.  We are reporters!  We get interpretations from
other people and present them.  If anyone on this network is
expressing his own opinion--well if I catch him I won't
permit it."15  The fact is that scores of reporters,
writers, editors and newsmen were, and still are, expressing
opinions every day in a multitude of ways.  And those
opinions were almost invariably against the American defense
of South Vietnam.
    Before we examine the process of perception management
by the television news industry, it is important to
understand why the official position of the national
networks is that they are unremittingly objective and
The Fairness Doctrine
    Unlike newspapers and magazines, which may openly
consider themselves to be "liberal," "conservative,"
"communist," or otherwise, and may editorialize and write
accordingly, the electronic media is held to a more narrow
standard by the Federal Government.  Rationalizing that the
number of broadcast channels is finite and that use of them
is an expensive undertaking possible by only a wealthy few,
the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) imposed a set
of standards known collectively as the Fairness Doctrine,
which regulates the airwaves to ensure they will be used "in
the public interest."  A key element of the Fairness
Doctrine concerning objectivity of reporting is that a
television licensee is not permitted "to distort or suppress
the basic factual information upon which any truly fair and
free discussion of public issues must necessarily depend."
It further states that a station would be "abusing his
position" by slanting the presentation of such news.16
    However, the Fairness Doctrine does allow for
editorializing by television, if it provides a forum for
"robust debate" about the issues raised, and that the
broadcaster has an "affirmative duty" to seek out
contrasting opinions and present them.  The television code
of the National Association of Broadcasters affirms the
principles of the Fairness Doctrine, and adds:  "Commentary
and analysis should be clearly identified as such."17
    It is now easy to see why network executives maintain
that their station's news coverage is fair and objective; to
state otherwise would be to place at risk the broadcast
license during its next renewal period.  Does all of this
mean that television news is in fact unbiased, or that all
opinions expressed are clearly labeled as such?  Most
assuredly not.
The Politics of the Press
    In order to understand how bias creeps into the news, it
is first necessary to understand why it happens.  News, of
course, is collected, edited, and broadcast by human beings,
people who have likes and dislikes, political preferences,
and all the other normal human characteristics.  Journalists
are, as a group, traditionally idealistic, opinionated, and
proven to be committed to what is commonly accepted as "the
liberal agenda."  A recent survey of 240 editors and
reporters from the three commercial networks, as well as
P.B.S., The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street
Journal, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and Time,
indicated that:
         48% believed that the Government should
         guarantee jobs, 68% argued that the Govern-
         ment should narrow the income gap between
         rich and poor, and 88% that the U.S. legal
         system favors the wealthy.  On social issues,
         90% believed that women should have a right
         to abortion, and only 25% considered
         homosexuality morally wrong.18
    In a separate survey, researchers who developed and
improved the Strong Vocational Interest Blank also devised a
scale to measure the political orientation of various
occupations.  They report that " ... on the 'liberalism'
scale, journalists were 'one of the very top scoring
occupations'"19  ABC Interviewer, Barbara Walters agrees:
"The news media in general is liberal.  If you want to be a
reporter, you are going to see poverty and misery, and you
have to be involved in the human condition."20  While the
aforementioned surveys and opinions do not directly address
attitudes towards U.S. involvements in overseas wars, it
takes no great leap of imagination to surmise that an anti-
war position would be consistent with a liberal orientation
during the Vietnam era.
    It is this liberalism that flavors national network
news, and the other major news organizations, i.e., The New
York Times, The Washington Post, Time and Newsweek.  It
infiltrates every step of the news gathering, selection and
reporting process and was a powerful influence in shaping
American attitudes towards the Vietnam War.  Edith Effron, a
professional television watcher for T.V. Guide, in her
1971 book The News Twisters, bluntly states:
         There isn't a man on the network staffs
         who is not aware that the overwhelming
         majority, if not 100%, of the network
         reporters are liberals.  And it is
         precisely with the staff--the individuals
         whose judgements will culminate in news
         stories--that the selective processes
         start.  The liberal composition of network
         staffs renders it impossible for network
         news departments to be anything but liberal
         news agencies--with the full regalia of
         characteristic liberal biases.21
    Mrs. Effron comments on the response to this charge,
raised initially by Vice-President Agnew in 1969:
         Network defenders, did point out that
         ABC's Howard K. Smith and NBC's Chet
         Huntley supported the war, in contrast
         to their collegues.  This "defense
         proved to be the sole exception anyone
         could dredge up to the rule of network
         conformity on major issues.22
    What are some of the other perceptions about
journalists?  Current public opinion was vividly revealed in
the aftermath of the Grenada operation, when an overwhelming
number of citizens supported the exclusion of the press from
the invasion.  Max Frankel, Editorial Page Editor of The New
York Times was struck by readers who discerned what they
believed to be the press' true reason for access to the
rescue operation:  "The most astounding thing about the
Grenada situation was the quick, facile assumption by some
of the public that the press wanted to get in, not to
witness the invasion on behalf of the people, but to
sabotage it."23  Washington Post Executive Editor Ben
Bradlee comments, perhaps a bit parochially, about the
nature of T.V. reports:  "Television has changed the
public's vision of the reporter into someone who is petty
and disagreeable, who has taken cynicism an unnecessary
extra step."24  Time magazine, in its post-Grenada wrap-up
issue was right on target when it stated:
         The dispute over Grenada seemed to uncork a
         pent-up public hostility.  It reinforced a
         perception that journalists regard themselves
         as utterly detached from, and perhaps even
         hostile to, the Government of their country.
         Another factor in provoking distrust is the
         suspicion that journalists care little about
    And a Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reader spoke for the
bulk of citizen commentators when she wrote:  "Journalists
are so out of touch with majority values, such as honor,
duty and service to country, that they are alienated from
the very society that they purport to serve."26
    It is exceedingly significant that the public's current
perception of the media is a result of twenty years of
observation of it, primarily television, at work.  Although
the National Opinion Research Center in 1983 found that the
percentage of the American population which had "a great
deal of confidence in the press" had sunk to a new low of
13.7%, this was not the case during most of the Vietnam
War.  During that time, when Walter Cronkite closed with
"And that's the way it is," there was a great faith in the
honesty and integrity of the newsmen and what was
broadcast.  It has only been after repeated exposure to the
true nature of the media that this shift of opinion has
occurred.  This is noteworthy, because it has occurred in
the face of the media's ability to present itself in the
best light possible, including always having the last word.
    As one might expect, journalists react in righteous
indignation if their patriotism or lack of objectivity is
called into question.  They reason that, whatever their
political or ideological beliefs, they can fairly present
controversial issues without bias or prejudice.  Their
success at doing so (or, more accurately, the lack of it) is
examined in the next sub-chapter.
Bias in the News
         "The proposition that T.V. News is
         biased should be about as con-
         troversial as the law of gravity,"
         [Dr. Weaver stated,] adding that
         the real question is:  "How are
         the media biased, and what is the
         consequent effect on your interests
         and values."
                          Dr. Paul H. Weaver, quoted
                          from T.V. and National Defense 27
    The question remains, "Can the individuals who present
television news place aside their liberal dispositions and
report world and national events in a dispassionate and
objective manner?"  The answer to this question, and many
similar to it has been the topic of debate, speculation, and
professional research for about twenty years.  The answer is
a resounding "No."  This is the keystone for understanding
how our perceptions of the American defense of South Vietnam
were molded.
    From virtually every perspective, including the media
itself, comes the finding that news is often colored to
suit the beliefs of the individuals involved in its
collection and presentation.  NBC anchorman David Brinkley,
in an appearance on National Educational Television in 1968
said:  "If I were objective, or if you were objective, or if
anyone was, we would have to be put away in an institution
because we'd be some kind of vegetable.  Objectivity is
impossible to a human being.   ABC's anchor Frank Reynolds
said:  "I think your program has to reflect what your basic
feelings are.  I'll plead guilty to that."28
    These admissions by leading networks newsmen are
certainly buttressed by independent research.  As the
subject of his doctoral dissertation, Robert Howard of the
University of Florida analyzed the objectivity of national
network news broadcast in 1972.  In his dissertation, Bias
in Television News, a Content Analvsis, he presented the
following conclusions:
        (1)  Almost forty-seven percent of the stories
             were unbalanced.
        (2)  Almost two-thirds of the stories contained
             elements of bias.
        (3)  Forty percent of the stories were
             directional, favoring one side or the
             other of an issue   Of those directional
             stories, almost twice as many were
             unfavorable as favorable to the referent.
        (4)  All three networks were equally biased,
             with NBC being the most balanced and
             most neutral, while ABC was the least
             balanced and least neutral.29
    Mr. Howard's study was conducted utilizing 107 under-
graduate students to identify and classify bias in the
newcasts.  Lest anyone perceive that these "coders" were an
assemblage of right wing idealogues, Mr. Howard provides the
following profiles, gleaned from responses provided by the
coders themselves:30
                  Coder Political Philosophy
                      Liberal        65%
                      Conservative    6%
                      Other          29%
              Political Philosophy by Major Issue
                        Vietnam Policy
                      Approve        13%
                      Disapprove     78%
                      No Opinion      9%
    In his book entitled T.V. and National Defense Dr.
Ernest Lefever analyzes CBS news coverage during the final
period of the American defense of South Vietnam.  His
research documents how CBS consistently and overwhelmingly
undermined the U.S. position on the war.  The following
chart is a content analysis of network news broadcasts from
1972 and 1973 reflecting material that CBS chose to
broadcast about the war during that period:
Click here to view image
     The most common themes for the three countries examined
         United States: U.S. involvement is wrong because
         the war is cruel, expensive, or senseless.  (254
         South Vietnam: Regime is an obstacle to peace, or
         other criticism.  (88 times)
         North Vietnam: Armed Services are doing well.
         (56 times)31
    Dr. Lefever also charted the direct expressions of
opinion by CBS newsmen themselves.  He broke the viewpoints
expressed down into three broad categories:  Viewpoint A
holds that "the threat to U.S. security is more serious than
that perceived by the government or that the United States
ought to increase its national security elements."
Viewpoint B holds that "present government threat perception
is essentially correct, or that U.S. military and foreign
policy efforts are adequate."  Viewpoint C holds that "the
threat to U.S. security is less serious than perceived by
the government or that U.S. national security efforts should
be decreased."
    Examples of these positions, as they would be stated
about the Vietnam War, are as follows:
        Viewpoint  A:    U.S. should take war to enemy.
        Viewpoint  B:    U.S. should withdraw as Saigon
                         takes responsibility for fighting.
        Viewpoint  C:    U.S. should withdraw as fast as
                         possible regardless of effect on
                         South Vietnam.
    Tapes of CBS  news  broadcast were then reviewed to
extract statements of explicit opinion by newsmen
themselves.  The result was an overwhelming preference for
the liberal, anti-war viewpoint.32
Click here to view image
As might be readily expected, this bias was often expressed
covertly as well, in many different forms.  Dr. Lefever goes
on to document numerous other findings of a lack of
objectivity and fairness on the part of CBS and concludes:
         All evidence suggests that CBS evening
         news employed various techniques of
         selective reporting and presentation to
         advocate a position opposed to U.S.
         military involvement in Vietnam.  It
         failed to present a full or fair picture
         of opposing viewpoints on the issues
         of peace negotiations, the problem of
         American POW's, the nature of the U.S.
         military presence, or on a larger canvas -
         the significance to the United States of
         the struggle between Communist and non-
         Communist forces in Southeast Asia.33
When more than 80% of a network's coverage of an event casts
the U.S. position in a negative light can that network claim
that it is not favoring a position?  In other words, that
it is objective and unbiased?
    Nor is CBS alone in its partisan coverage--or for that
matter, even the most opinionated.  In her 1971 book, The
News Twisters, Edith Effron recounts the results of her own
independent study of national network news reporting.  She
chose the 1968 presidential campaign for the basis of her
study and analysed about 300,000 spoken words during that
period.  Like Mr. Lefever's study, Mrs. Effron found that
the national network news agencies were marked in their
opposition to the American defense of South Vietnam.  Using
a content analysis approach, Mrs. Effron made the following
	The number of words spoken for and against U.S. policy 
on the Vietnam War on the networks combined.
Click here to view image
    Even a cursory examination of the above data should
place the following remarks by NBC anchorman, David Brinkley
into perfect clarity.  In a post-war interview, Mr. Brinkley
was asked to contrast the reporting of co-anchor Chet
Huntley and himself concerning the Vietnam War.  Mr.
Brinkley's response:
    "We are two different people.  Neither of us is a
machine.  Huntley's view and my view of the war are somewhat
different.  I always thought it was an atrocity.  I don't
think he thought that."  Mr. Brinkley was then asked if his
view of the war did in fact come through in his news
stories.  His reply was:  "Yes it did come out very
    It is apparent also that as reporters and corporate
entities change, there is also a varying degree of
partisanism through the years.  This was throughly
documented in George Arthur Bailey's dissertation, The
Vietnam War According to Chet, David, Walter, Harry, Peter,
Bob, Howard and Frank, and accounts in large part for the
varying degrees of advocacy during the long war.
    Another researcher, author-analyst Dr. Edward J.
Epstein, says that the three national network news programs
are "loaded with bias," due in large part to the liberal
views of a small group of men who have final authority about
what is actually broadcast.  He makes the following points:
        1.   Virtually all our national news is
             filtered through and controlled by
             a group of men in one city, New York.
        2.   Most national-news footage is drawn
             from just four metropolitan centers -
             New York, Washington, Chicago, Los
        3.   National "news" is, in fact, routinely
             created by starting with general
             hypothesis rather than actual happenings.
        4.   Events that are visually exciting are more
             likely to get air time than others which
             may be equally or more significant.36
	These are some of the same themes that Vice-President
Agnew commented on in November 1969.  In the midst of the
Vietnam War, Mr. Agnew accused the three national networks
with biased coverage on a number of subjects, including the
Vietnam policies of the United States Government.  The
networks were also denounced as being biased against Richard
Nixon and in favor of war protestors, by virtue of their own
broadcast opinions and those of others selected for
    As might be expected, the networks are not eager to
concede to unbalanced and partisan reporting--especially
after Mr. Agnew's pointed criticism and the strong public
support that followed.  But before Mr. Agnew's speech NBC
producer Shad Northshield was willing to admit:  "Bias is on
everybody's mind.  We've claimed we don't have it.  And the
viewers say:  'Yes, you do.'  I was stunned by the public
reaction to (television coverage of the anti-war riots in)
Chicago.  We all were.  I was stunned, astonished, hurt.  It
was the key thing that opened my eyes to the cleavage
between newsmen and the majority."38  Afterward Mr. Agnew's
charges however, only ABC commentator Howard K. Smith was
willing to go to record supporting those contentions.  In
February, 1970 interview in T.V. Guide, Mr. Smith made the
following indictments:
         On the Vietnam War:   The networks have
         never given a complete picture of the war.
         For example:  That terrible seige at Khe
         Sanh went on for five weeks before newsmen
         revealed that the South Vietnamese were
         fighting at our sides, and that they had
         higher casualties.  And the Viet Cong's
         casualties were 100 times ours.  But we
         were never told that.  We just showed
         pictures day after day of Americans
         getting the hell kicked out of them.
         That was enough to break America apart.
         That's also what it did.
         Ho Chi Minh:   Many have described Ho Chi
         Minh as a nationalist leader comparable
         to George Washington.  But his advent to
         power, in 1954, was marked by the murder
         of 50,000 of his people.  His consistent
         method was terror.  He was not his country's
         George Washington--he was more like his
         country's Hitler or Stalin ....  I heard
         an eminent T.V. commentator say:  'It's an
         awful thing when you can trust Ho Chi Minh
         more than you can trust your President.'
         At the time he said that, Ho Chi Minh was
         lying!  He was presiding over atrocities!
         And yet an American T.V. commentator could
         say that!
         The Viet Cong:  The Viet Cong massacred 3,000
         Vietnamese at Hue alone - a massacre that
         dwarfs all allegations about My Lai.  This
         was never reported on. 39
    Documentaries are a form of news, and are often
presented to provide indepth coverage of topics too complex
to be fully aired during the nightly thirty minute
broadcasts.  The descriptive title "documentary" strongly
implies a treatment of a subject in an objective fashion.
Random House Dictionary defines it as "portraying and
interpreting an actual event, life of a real person, etc.,
in a factual, usually dramatic form."  In reality, however,
documentaries "factual" basis is woven into a theme intended
to convey a particular point of view.  The many means of
doing this are the subject of the sub-chapter to follow, but
consider these evaluations from observers of the television
industry, such as Robert F. Wagner, writing in Audio-Visual
Review:  "it grows naturally and inevitably out of the
beliefs and feelings of someone involved in the production -
a writer, the director, the producer, the editor"40 (italics
mine).  This is hardly a definition of "objectivity."
Gerald V. Flannery, in an article entitled, "The Documentary
as Essay," discussed the evolution of the documentary into
the Vietnam War era:  "The documentary thus became the
vehicle for the essayist to broaden his communication with
the general public."41 And Author Barron, in a 1969
examination entitled, "Traditions of Documentary,"
concluded:  "Finally, these films advocate; they take a
position 'for' or 'against' something ....  Sometimes the
advocacy is muted, cloaked in subtle pretension of 'balance'
or 'objectivity.' Sometimes the films are openly
    The CBS documentary, "The Selling of the Pentagon," is
generally regarded as the nadir of fair, objective
reporting, although it may yield that distinction in the
yet-to-be-litigated libel trial of General William
Westmoreland versus CBS.  In this documentary, The Uncounted
Enemy:  A Vietnam Deception, even CBS' own management had to
conclude that the network's charge of "conspiracy" by
Westmoreland was unfounded, that unfair advantage had been
given to Westmoreland's accusers, and that material
supportive of the General's position had been suppressed.43
The Uncounted Enemy is an example of a "compilation of
facts" that are skillfully arranged to "prove" a point.  Jay
Leyda, who has researched this type of documentary, has this
to say about the objectivity of this form of news:
         No doubt, though, that "documentary"; and
         "compilation" have one element in common:
         manipulation of actuality.  This
         manipulation, no matter what its motive
         --art, propaganda, instruction, advertise-
         ment--usually tries to hide itself so that
         the spectator sees only "reality"--that
         is, the especially arranged reality that
         suits the film-maker's purpose.44
    So the question remains--not is television news slanted,
but how?
Molding Perception
        News is what I say it is.  Its something
        worth knowing by my standards.
                          NBC Anchorman David Brinkley
                          TV Guide Interview, April 11, 1964
    Mr. Brinkley's comment, arrogant though it may be, is
nonetheless candid and educational.  It is vivid reminder
that the 7:00 o'clock news is not a pure rendition of
events, but is in fact a product of the efforts of a large
number of human beings, many of them highly opinionated.
Recalling that the Fairness Doctrine and the Television Code
of the National Association of Broadcasters place
significant restrictions on the ability of the networks to
proselytize openly, how then can the individuals who convey
the news influence public perception in a direction of their
    Before that question is answered, it is useful to review
a few fundamentals of news gathering and reporting are in
order.  Edith Effron places the process into a human
         The event selected for coverage is a
         matter of choice; the issues covered
         are a matter of choice; the facts
         isolated are a matter of choice; the
         number and kinds of participants in
         the event who are interviewed are a
         matter of choice; the authorities and
         experts cited in the story are a matter
         of choice; the number and extent of
         their opinions included in the story are
         a matter of choice; the interpretation
         and explanations of the event are a
         matter of choice; the theories about the
         causes of the event and any proposed
         solutions to problems are a matter of
    The people who make these choices are often referred to
as "gatekeepers," a term first used during the 1940's by
social-psychologist Kurt Lewin to describe those individuals
who controlled a channel through which items flowed.  These
gatekeepers made decisions at various points about which
items would continue to the ultimate destination, which
would get shunted aside, and generally exercised judgement
about the shape the final product would take.  Lewin's
concept was primarily about the movement of food and other
types of supplies, but he also mentioned its application to
the flow of news items through the media process.46
    It is vitally important to remember that these gate-
keepers are the reporters, editors, writers and anchormen of
the television news industry; and that these individuals
were, in the main, more liberal and anti-war than the
general public; and by their choices were profoundly
affecting the public's perception of national and inter-
national events.  A textbook example of this is presented in
Mark Fishman's 1980 book, Manufacturing the News.  In the
chapter entitled "Assembling a Crime Wave," Mr. Fishman
recounts how the media in New York City went about creating
a public perception of a crisis in "crime against the
elderly" that lasted for about seven weeks.  During that
time all the media gave almost daily accounts of frightening
and brutal assaults against senior citizens, mostly by
violent juveniles.  The various types of media picked up the
theme from each other and vied to give the most thorough
coverage of this new phenomona that seemed to have sprung up
suddenly in their midst.  Naturally, all of this did not go
unnoticed by the public:
         The public outcry against these crimes
         was almost immediate.  The Mayor of New
         York vowed to make the streets safe for
         the elderly.  He denounced the Juvenile
         Justice System and allocated more man-
         power to a special police squad focusing
         on elderly victimization.  Bills were
         introduced to the state legislature to
         increase punishment for violent juvenile
         offenders.  Community meetings were held
         on the problem.  Months later, a nation-
         wide poll showed that fear of this new
         kind of crime was widespread.47
    Of course, the aforementioned were given extensive
coverage also.
    All of this occurred even though there had been no
change in official crime statistics, and by some accounts
this type of crime had actually decreased from the previous
year.  What had happened was that like-minded people had
picked up a theme, had given it widespread coverage,
mutually reinforced it, and soon had everyone convinced that
New York was in the midst of a major crime wave.  There are
two critical elements to this event:
         1.  Everything the media reported was true (even
though the great majority of what they presented was a
result of their own publicity).
         2.  There was no great conspiracy among the media
outlets to create this event.
         What we have seen here is simply a matter of
selectivity (choice) being exercised.  The power of this
authority to "set the agenda" cannot be underestimated.
Although the networks are almost required to report on such
"obligatory" events as a major battle, a presidential
election, an assassination, and other consensus news events,
there is still a very great degree of flexibility in overall
selection.  And it is this flexibility which allows a subtle
expression of viewpoint to be aired.  Consider these
statements on selectivity by some of the gatekeepers
         John Secondari, ABC: "Its absolutely
         impossible to write a broadcast or
         put together pictures without having
         a point of view."
         Gerald Green, NBC:   "It's impossible
         not to have a point of view.  Once
         you start selecting facts and choosing
         what and whom to put on the air, a
         point of view is implicit."
         Quincy Howe, former President of the
         Association of Radio - TV News Analysts:
         "All news presented on radio and TV
         editorializes.  The newscaster editorial-
         izes in what he emphasizes and what he
         plays down  in what he omits and what he
    Even the seemingly "obligatory" events are open to
manipulation.  One might think that commonly observed events
would result in a unanimity of coverage.  That is probably
correct were it not for the human element.  As an
illustration, the following chart indicates the number of
stories on Vietnam read by CBS and ABC anchormen each week
for a year and half period:49
Click here to view image
    Was the level of activity in Vietnam increasing during a
particular month?  Or decreasing?  Take your pick, its all a
matter of how a network chose to depict the war at any given
point.  How extreme is this one sided coverage?  During
1972-1973, when the Soviet Union was engaged in an
unprecedent peacetime buildup, CBS Evening News presented
only one minute to the comparative military situation
between the United States and the U.S.S.R.  But CBS did, in
this same period, manage to find time to present 141 minutes
of problems within the U.S. military--including 1:50 minutes
devoted to missing tableware at Pentagon cafeterias.  Small
wonder that even an openminded viewer would develop an
anti-military sentiment and question the value and
effectiveness of the Armed Forces as a whole.50
    Not only is the amount of coverage selected for
broadcast a critical factor in molding the news, but the
type of news selected is of equal importance.  Television is
essentially an action medium and strongly favors combat
scenes over a dry recitation of facts and figures.  In
Vietnam this came to be called "shooting bloody," a
preference for footage of dramatic engagements, even though
they were often irrelevent or uncharacteristic of the total
event.  Thomas M. McNulty, in his Doctoral Dissertation on
documentaries of the Vietnam War, described it this way:
         On the basis of interview evidence it
         appears that while there were no overt
         demands for battle footage, subtle
         pressures from editors indicated a
         preference for this type of coverage.
         As Morely Safer and William Small
         of CBS characterized the pattern,
         if another network aired exciting
         battle footage, the Vietnam correspon-
         dent for the network that missed the
         event inevitably received a cable
         inquiry as to his whereabouts at the
         time of the battle.51
    The impact of these bloody scenes will be the subject of
a subsequent chapter.
    When the military chooses to include or exclude a
particular scene from broadcast, it is called "censorship."
When the media does the same thing, it is called "editing."
    Closely related to selectivity of subjects is the
selectivity of opinions.  Since the networks are primarily
"chroniclers of controversy," there is an enormous
opportunity to sway perceptions by the opinions that are
aired on any given subject.  Opinion sampling can take a
number of different forms.  Most common are the opinions of
individuals who are reacting to a particular issue.  In
another method, reporters often summarize the thoughts of
unnamed but opinionated people, usually groups, with
comments that typically begin with such phrases as "Insiders
here today believe ...." or "Veteran obervers feel that the
outcome is only a matter of time .... "; less common is an
overt opinion ventured by the reporter or anchorman himself,
for taking an easily identifiable position is hampered by
the restrictions (although not prohibitions) of the Fairness
Doctrine of the F.C.C..
    How effective is selectivity of opinion in molding
perceptions?  Edith Effron comments:
         Freedom in the realm of opinion coverage
         is the single most powerful weapon in
         the editorial armament, because it is
         the most hidden weapon.  It is the only
         editorial device that allows a news
         agency or reporter to proselytize
         freely, even passionately while
         saying nothing directly.52
    Thus we find such situations as CBS devoting an unknown
Yale graduate student six sentences on the Evening News to
accuse South Vietnam President Thieu of involvement in
heroin trade, with no rebuttal from the other side.  Or,
during the 1972 bombing campaign, Jane Fonda was given
thirteen sentences to denounce U.S. policy, while Bob Hope,
who supported the bombing was given no opportunity to
present his opinions.53  There are hundreds of more examples
in the literature that document the use of this covert
editorial device.  Dr. Lefever concludes, after extensive
and detailed analysis, that the subject of his study, CBS,
"sought out spokemen at home and abroad who expressed
similar (anti-war) views and that CBS News ignored or failed
to seek our opposing views."54  And there is no indication
that the other networks were any more fair.
    Other techniques for slanting the news are many and
varied.  Edith Effron, in The News Twisters, identifies 33
different methods for introducing bias into reporting.  To
document them all, plus others which are just as common
would be worthy of a book in itself, but some of the more
influential are worthy of exposition.
    The Closing Statement.  One of the favorite techniques
of broadcasters is to try to mold opinions by leaving the
audience with a statement or scene that reflects the
reporter's real feelings.  An excellent example occurred
recently during the U.S. Marine withdrawal from Beirut in
February of 1984.
         SCENE: After documenting an ongoing
         deterioration of cease fires in the
         Lebanese factional fighting, switch
         to domestic news.  Present footage
         of the various activities of President
         Reagan on a day when the White House
         was open to the press.  Conclude with
         photo of Reagan in mock arm wrestling
         contest with visiting body-builder in
         Oval Office--comment:  "Meanwhile, in
         an adjacent room, aides grappled with
         the problems of how to extricate the
         Marines from Lebanon."  Pause for effect,
         fade to commercial.
    The message could not have been plainer if it had been
written in foot high letters:  "Reagan fiddles while Rome
(Lebanon) burns."  Notice that all events depicted were
true.  The slanting is simply in the arrangement and
presentation, along with the final, guiding statement.  Not
all reports are slanted, but if you want to find out how the
journalist really feels on the subject, watch the closing
comments carefully.
    "Controversial."  A common technique to undermine the
confidence and credibility of the public in an individual,
policy, institution or device is to label it "contro-
versial."  This is a pejorative word that stigmatizes the
subject of the discussion in the public mind and causes a
loss of faith in it.  Examples:  "this controversial new
weapons system ....", "the controversial strategic hamlets
program ...."  Let us pause for a moment--everything which
is important enough to get air time on national TV is
controversial.  There is simply no subject or person worthy
of network news which does not make some portion of our 230
million citizens irate.  This is ignored by the news media,
which labels as "controversial" only those subjects or
people to whom it is ideologically opposed.  It then seeks
to build upon that label by seeking out those opinions which
illustrate controversy, often by use of reaction
interviews.  ("What is your reaction to the President's
announcement that he intends to renew the bombing of North
Vietnam?")  These people do not line up uninvited down at
the television studio to give interviews; they are sought
out and used to justify the network's definition of
    Exaggerated Significance.  During the Vietnam War it was
routine for the networks to enlarge the significance of
events or people so as to further anti-war sentiment or
drama.  Thus, if Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon gave an
hour long speech, two minutes of which was interrupted by
the jeering of a small number of dissidents, you could be
certain that those would be the two minutes chosen by the
networks for the news that night.  With the events all out
of context and no corrective interpretation offered, it
would appear that the unpopular speaker was surrounded by a
public overwhelmingly opposed to him.  There are only 22
minutes of news in each networks prime time news broadcasts;
the spoken words, if written, would not even fill the front
page of The New York Times.  The public, although probably
not specifically aware of the two aforementioned facts, does
know that air time is extremely limited and valuable, and
therefore does not expect it to be devoted to aberrations.
When it is, these anomalies are given vastly more import and
attention than they deserve.  The distinguished military
historian S.L.A. Marshall said about typical Vietnam
         Today's average correspondent prefers
         a piece that will make people on the
         home front squirm and agonize.  Never
         before, in any war, has there been so
         much concentration on the offbeat yarn
         to the exclusion of a balanced accounting
         of how operations are being conducted.55
    A M.A.C.V. Public Affairs Officer saw it, too:  "Out of
315 successful bombing sorties one hung bomb causing
casualities in a school yard meant a sure headline with
little or no reference made to the success of the others."56
This predilection to exaggerating the frequency or degree of
the war's uglier sidelights led to a gross distortion of the
public's perception.
    Covert Editorials.  A number of newsmen have previously
been quoted admitting that their personal opinions were
interjected into the news.  One of their favorite ways of
doing this is by the "covert editorial," usually only a
sentence or two phased within a newscast, designed to
influence the viewer's judgement on a particular piece.  In
purely factual terms, they are almost always true--but are
they relevant and objective?  Examine this carefully worded
segment by Chet Huntley on August 14, 1969.
         Last week, before the resumption of
         the fighting, the number of American
         men killed in Vietnam fell to the
         lowest level in two years.  96
         Americans ... most of them young men
         ... were killed.  And the enemy,
         North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, are
         said to have had more than 2,200 men
         killed, but there is no way of knowing
         how accurate that count is.57
    The term "most of them young men," is no doubt
accurate.  There is also no doubt it was placed there solely
to create and reinforce anti-war sentiment.  The phrase "but
there is no way of knowing how accurate that count is," was
designed to cast doubt on the honesty and accuracy of
American military officials.  This was also Walter
Cronkite's intent on April 25, 1966, when he used the
following words:
         Today North Vietnam accused American
         planes of strafing the city's suburbs.
         Despite Washington denials that the
         United States is escalating the war,
         Hanoi may interpret differently the
         bomb bursts on its outskirts.58
    On December 19, 1969, ABC anchorman Frank Reynolds
decided to stir anti-war passion with this little closet
         ... He [Reynolds] said that the weekly
         casualty scores were "duly recited
         statistics" which remained "just numbers"
         to most people.  He then introduced a
         film which showed an American family
         receiving a dead son back home.  After
         the film Reynolds said, "the numbers
         mean a little more now, don't they?"59
	In March of 1968 a minor committee testimony on alleged
corruption by South Vietnamese officials was used by David
Brinkley to express his personal sentiments:
         So the Senate now will investigate,
         but about all it can do is make the
         facts public.  Beyond that its only
         power would be to stop sending aid
         to Vietnam and the only way to do
         that is to stop the war.60
    The last phrase, "stop the war," was not Senate
testimony or comments, but was interjected by Brinkley to
sway public opinion towards an American withdrawal.  It was
also effective in strongly implying that the United States
was soley the cause and perpetuation of the war.  Mr.
Brinkley was also well known for casting doubt on the
integrity and judgement of American armed forces, as in this
         The U.S. military command, after saying
         repeatedly for months it would defend
         the base at Khe Sanh at whatever cost
         was necessary, said today it was giving
         it up and moving its operations ten
         miles to the east to a place called
         Landing Zone Stud.  The reasons given
         were not anymore clear than those put
         forward for holding it in the first
    The last sentence, of course, is Mr. Brinkley's personal
indictment designed to build resentment and doubt about the
    These examples of covert editorials, and countless other
unrecorded ones, reached millions of Americans and were a
powerful factor in molding sentiment against the U.S.
involvement in the Vietnam War.
    Overt (but unlabeled) Editorials.  Some comments by
broadcasters were so strongly opinionated and blatantly
pejorative they could scarcely be called anything but
editorials.  Of course, they never were, but instead were
mixed into the "objective" reporting.  Walter Cronkite,
reporting from Vietnam on February 29, 1968, delivered the
following piece:
         Three weeks ago President Johnson
         demanded and received from the Joint
         Chiefs of Staff the assurance that
         Khe Sanh could be held.  In Vietnam
         no one to whom this reporter talked,
         including the highest officials were
         so certain.  All without exception
         hedged on such assurance.  And among
         lower echelons there was great and
         admirable fortitude.  But one sensed
         little conviction.  Since its useful-
         ness as a roadblock and forward base
         has been vastly diminished, it can be
         assumed that Khe Sanh is now mostly a
         symbol.  But of what?  Pride?  Morale?
         Bravery?  Or administrative intransigence
         and military miscalculation?62
    Hardly encouraging words for America's fighting men
hunkered down at Khe Sanh.  Keep in mind that this was
presented as straight news, with no label of "analysis",
"commentary", interpretation", or "editorial" whatever.
    David Brinkley contributed this unlabeled editorial on
June 26, 1969:
         The President said at his news
         conference last week that the only
         thing that had been settled when he
         came to office was the shape of the
         [peace negotiations] table.  Well,
         in the five months since then they
         have used the table in the shape
         agreed on, settled nothing and in
         Vietnam the war and the killing
         Today in Saigon they announced the
         casualty figures for the week.  And
         though they come out in the form of
         numbers, each of them was a man, most
         of them quite young, each with hope
         he will never realize, each with
         families and friends who will never
         see him alive again.  Anyway, these
         are the numbers.63
    He then read the numbers.  It is difficult to imagine
this kind of anti-war sentiment being broadcast nationwide
during World War II, for example, but it was not uncommon
during the Vietnam War era, and pacifist advocacy journalism
is what makes that war unique.
    Walter Cronkite offered one of the most innovative
unlabeled editorials after the TET offensive of 1968.  In a
forerunner of today's "videos" he played the Kenny Rogers'
song "Ruby", about a crippled and dying Vietnam War veteran
who had returned home.  As a backdrop for such song phrases
as "... a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed," and
"...that old crazy Asian War," was shown a sampling of every
bloody and tragic scence that had occurred in the war to
date.  The poignancy of the song was hammered home by
picture after picture of bleeding American soldiers,
children's anguished faces, flattened towns, etc.
    Mr. Cronkite then closes with a grim expression on his
face and the familiar, "And that's the way it is."  All very
moving and powerful, and included for no other reason than
to affect the audience's perceptions and sway their
    This was recognized by Lieutenant Colonel Chandler
Goodnow, et al, then a student at the U.S. Army War College,
in a 1969 research project.  He summarizes his findings of
media coverage of the TET offensive:
         There is no evidence of any significant
         distortion of the facts by the press.
         However, judgements based on the avail-
         able facts frequently resulted in
         inaccurate interpretations of events.
         All of the media generally reported
         the truth.  Problems arose in the
         interpretation and judgements about
         those facts.  When the press was
         correct and the government had erred,
         the media, of course, called attention
         to that fact.  But in cases where press
         judgements turned out to be incorrect,
         these errors were seldom admitted.  The
         most negative interpretations were
         developed on the editorial pages of
         newspapers and magazines and by the
         television networks.  Two of the major
         networks evinced a policy of interpreta-
         tion as well as reporting the news.
         Combined with the narrow view of the
         television camera, this type of editorial
         policy had a powerful impact on the manner
         in which the TET offensive was portrayed to
         the people.64
    The tendency for journalists to "interpret" the war news
increased as the war went on.  Research by George Arthur
Bailey of the University of Wisconsin showed clear-cut
degradations of straight, unadorned reporting.  He writes:
         ... all three networks increased their
         interpretive stories as the years passed
         towards 1970.  In the 1965/1966 period,
         ABC wrote interpretive stories 13% of
         the time; by the 1969/1970 period 44%
         of stories were interpretive.  CBS
         showed a less dramatic but constant
         change from 37% to 48%.  NBC doubled
         its interpretation from 28 to 58% ...
         The cause for the rise in interpretive
         writing could only be a change in the
         actual practice by the anchormen and
         their writers.65
    The replacement of straightforward, objective reporting
by "advocacy journalism" is a significant development in the
news industry.  It is insidious, but no less powerful, when
masked by the aforementioned techniques, a blend of "news
and views" that unfairly favors anti-war sentiments.  And
because of its covert character it is much easier for the
networks to defend.  Only when the total range of methods
and frequencies of occurrence are viewed comprehensively
does the magnitude of the effort become apparent.
    To briefly summarize the chapter, we have seen that
objectivity is the stated corporate position of the
networks; that this goal is routinely subverted; and some of
the methods slanting the news were documented.  The effect
that all of this had on the American population is the
subject of the next chapter.
                       CHAPTER IV
         With public sentiment, nothing can fail;
         without it, nothing can succeed.
         Consequently, he who molds public sentiment
         goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or
         pronounces decisions.
                                         Abraham Lincoln
The Living Room War
         ... This is the first war in this
         nation's history that has been fought
         on television were the actors are real.
         Where, in the quiet of your living room
         of your home, or your dormitory, or
         wherever you may be, these cruel, ugly
         dirty facts of life and death in war
         and pain and suffering come right to you;
         and it isn't Hollywood acting.  I've had
         letters from mothers that have seen their
         boys shotdown in battle ...66
                              Vice President Hubert Humphrey
    In order to assess the impact of television on the war
in Vietnam it is important to keep in mind that the chief
victim of the war was not the U.S. soldier or America's war
fighting capability, but the morale and willpower of the
American public.  How did this public come to change its
collective mind, and where did we get our information?
Elected public officials, from the President on down, were
almost uniformly optimistic about the prosecution of the
war, so a change in public attitude would not seem to be
attributable to this source.  Military officers and
spokesmen were positive about our efforts, and this attitude
was prevalent all through the ranks as well.  According to a
1980 Veterans Administration study, 71% of those Vietnam
vets surveyed said they were glad to have gone to Vietnam;
74% claimed to have enjoyed their tour there; and 66%
expressed a willingness to go back again.67  So this would
not seem to be the source of disaffection.  The war did not
pose any great hardships on the home front, indeed, under
President Johnson's "Great Society" initiatives, conditions
for many Americans actually improved.  And, as wars go,
casualities were exceptionally light, a year's fatalities
far short of approaching the annual deaths caused by
automobile accidents.
    The answer, as must be obvious, is that the public's
information about the war was obtained, to a very great
degree, from the media, a media that was buttressed for the
first time by a new and powerful medium, television.  The
power and impact of television was the deciding factor in
turning American opinion from one of supporting the U.S.
defense of South Vietnam to one of opposing it.
    In an article entitled "Dangerous to Your Health,"
columnist Michael Novak conveyed his interpretation of the
grist of television news:
         Television does not tell you anything
         you could not learn more fully and in
         context from the papers, and the best
         magazines.  What then does television
         add?  In a word, impact.  To watch
         television news is to submit to wallops
         in the solar plexus.  The moving pictures
         on the news are not pruned from reels of
         tape for the sake of calmness and object-
         ivity.  They are chosen for power.68
    Impact.  Without doubt, war was made to order for
television.  It has all the elements of visual drama: life
and death struggles in vivid color, raw emotions readily
visible, triumphs and tragedy.  The two most famous filmed
sequences of the war were the point blank execution by
pistol shot to the head of a Viet Cong prisoner during the
Battle of Hue, 1968; and the film of the little Vietnamese
girl running naked down the road, her clothes burned from
her body by napalm from an attacking South Vietnamese plane
during the 1972 Communist offensive.  Ironically, neither of
these incidents involved any American participation, and
their impact in Vietnam was minimal.  In the United States,
however, the impact of these scenes was tremendous, and
uniformly negative.  Practically everyone old enough to have
viewed the news during those years remembers those scenes,
and others like them, with a combination of revulsion and
disgust.  This is the essence of television, impact.  Those
same scenes described in print would evoke only a fraction
of the emotion produced by the vivid footage.  The response
of the American public ran along the lines of, "We are over
there mixed up in all this and its horrible and we have got
to get out."
Click here to view image
TET, The Turning Point
    Much the same reaction was accorded to the 1968 TET
Offensive.  If this event had been reported as the great
allied victory that it was, it could have significantly
bolstered American confidence and undermined Hanoi's
morale.  Instead, exactly the opposite happened; it was
conveyed by the American media as an Allied defeat,
undermining American confidence and bolstering the North
Vietnamese's morale.  Much of this was due to the warped
perceptions of the press itself.  As General Bruce Clark
said, the enemy "took the battle down around the Caravelle
Hotel [press billeting], and so, from the standpoint of the
average reporter over there, it was like the acorn that fell
on the chicken's head and it said 'The sky is falling!'"69
Another General, Harold K. Johnson, then Chief of Staff of
the Army summed up the whole TET offensive:
          ... loss of confidence after the recent
         TET offensive was just about the reverse
         of what it should have been.  After the
         dust of battle had settled down, it was
         very easy to see that we and our South
         Vietnamese ally fared very well indeed.
         The young South Vietnamese government
         held fast--in fact, more erect than even
         the South Vietnamese expected of a three
         month old infant.  Its army fought
         generally well, and, in many cases,
         extremely well.  Few defections from the
         man on the street, and none identified
         from the Army or the government.  The
         enemy's losses were staggering, and he
         did not attain a single objective.
         But what happened here in the United
         States?  We suffered a smashing, catastrophic
         psychological defeat--a defeat which we
         imposed on ourselves.70
    TET 1968, or at least the televised perception of it,
proved to be the watershed event of the Vietnam War.  It had
immediate political implications in the 1968 Presidential
campaign and provided the catalyst for discarding what
little remained of the impartiality of the reporters and
anchormen covering the war.  They were, by the end of TET,
cynical and dovish, and they conveyed this to the American
public.  Walter Cronkite was regarded nationally at the
time as the one person in the entire country who most of the
public could "trust wholeheartedly" (73%, compared to Nixon
and Humphrey at 57% each).71  You cannot underestimate the
impact on the American public, including the government and
media itself, when Mr. Cronkite, after returning from a
first hand assessment of the TET offensive, said:
         I think that it is time for us to face
         the facts in Vietnam--that we are in a
         no-win situation and it is time for us
         to get out ...   We came here with the
         best of intentions--and we failed.72
    Not "lets exploit our victory", or "press the
advantage," but "get out ... we failed."  His statements,
and others like them, were not lost on America.  From then
on there would be no talk of "winning" in Vietnam, only
arguments over the best way of getting out.  General William
Westmoreland, surveying the war in retrospect, wrote in
disgust:  "Press and television created an aura not of
victory but of defeat, which, coupled with vocal anti-war
elements, profoundly influenced timid officials in
    There are a number of lessons to be learned from all of
this.  One is that there is no reason to suspect that the
media will abandon its anti-military mentality and slanted
reporting.  Short of a full-scale invasion of the United
States, it will continue its traditional and self-generated
adversary relationship.  In peacetime this is mostly
bearable, but as has been shown previously, it will have a
profound impact on the American public during conflicts yet
to come.  Expect the worst and you won't be far wrong, if
the military's victimization in Vietnam is any guide.
The Press in a Free Society
    We are all familiar with scenes of corruption and
profiteering in Vietnam as is typically described here:
         About thirty thousand tons of freight are
         landed daily.  But roughly half of it is
         stolen or left to rot on the warves.
         During my visit there, I saw crates
         that had been unloaded upside down or
         broken, and equipment rusting from
         neglect.  The components of a complete
         French cement plant, still in their
         containers, had been languishing on
         a dock for two years.  The congestion
         is ghastly--and deliberate.  Customs
         and harbor officials require bribes.
         Ships must also bribe the authorities
         to discharge their cargoes, and the
         illicit tariff is fixed.  Japanese
         vessels, which can afford the top
         fee of five thousand dollars, usually
         turnaround in three or four days.
         The less affluent linger for a month,
         sometimes six months.74
    Corruption of this type was a regular and common staple
of the media's coverage of the Vietnam War.  Only in the
case above, it was not South Vietnam being described but
North Vietnam, by Stanley Karnow in an 1980 visit.  It is
educational and instructive to learn that graft and
corruption is, and had been, endemic and pervasive in North
Vietnam.  Unfortunately for the American public's benefit,
this news is coming about fifteen years too late.  This is
one of the learning points of the Vietnam War.  American
journalists scurried hither and yon about the South,
reporting innumerable instances of corruption, inefficiency,
drug use and prostitution, as well as any military blunders
or accidents.  All of this served to paint a very negative
image of a corrupt and repressive society aided and abetted
by the U.S. presence, an image that was conveyed not only to
the American public, but around the world.  North Vietnam,
of course, had no such image problem, because its tightly
controlled media wasn't allowed to film or print anything
damaging to their war effort.  And when foreign
correspondents were allowed into North Vietnam, it was only
after they, and their previous writings, had been carefully
scrutinized and deemed acceptable.  This, plus the average
journalist's gratitude about being granted almost an
exclusive privilege of admission to the country virtually
assured favorable foreign press coverage.
    Of course, while not allowing free and open press
coverage in their own country, totalitarian governments do
not hesitate for a moment to blast the U.S. military and
American policies.  A closed society, as our opponents so
often are, can count on a free and unfettered media such as
ours to "shoot our own wounded"--while they reap the
benefits on the international stage.  Barry Rubin, writing
in International News and the American Media describes the
image change of South Vietnam:
         After the last U.S. reporters were forced
         out of South Vietnam, coverage changed
         quickly.  Throughout 1974, front page
         stories focused on the Thieu regime's
         repression and corruption.  Following
         the September 1975 expulsions, there
         were fewer and smaller stories playing
         up peace, prosperity, and unity under
         Communist rule.  The reason for this
         was the lack of correspondents on the
         scene and the absence of demonstrations
         or even of a semi-free Saigon press to
         provide "negative news."  The most
         ironic fact was that total and
         efficient suppression has proven to be
         the most reliable way to convey an image
         of freedom through the media.75
    So the foibles of America and her allies remain in the
spotlight of her own and the enemy press, while those our
opponents are largely cloaked in darkness.  Small wonder
that the American public would doubt the soundness of U.S.
positions in foreign conflicts.
Impact on the American Psyche.  Unique among America's
conflicts, the War in Vietnam was widely perceived as an
"immoral" war, a belief held by 65% of the American public
by the end of our involvement.  This was due in large part
to any number of questionable activities that went on
there.  But was it "immoral?"  Evaluate these vignettes:
         The American advisor was with his unit
         on a long range patrol deep into
         guerrilla controlled territory.  They
         halted on the banks of a river to
         make preparations to cross.  As the
         American advisor and his provincial
         counterpart stood and conferred, a
         local peasant astride a handsome white
         horse appeared on the opposite shore.
         The American Captain remarked aloud,
         "A wonderful horse.  I'd surely like to
         have him."  The advisor's counterpart
         spoke a few words in the local dialect,
         and a shot rang out.  The peasant
         toppled from the horse and splashed
         into the river in a pool of blood.  The
         stunned advisor turned and said, "Did you
         order that man shot?"  The reply:  "Hell,
         sir.  You said you wanted the horse.
         Anything the Captain says is our command.
         We have discipline here, sir."76
    Another scene, this time with American Marines on a
search and destroy mission deep in the jungle:
         It was only twenty miles by air, but
         it seemed like hundreds on the rough
         trail.  The C.O. kept the pace fast
         and the men were constantly wet from
         rain or sweat.  The few enemy they
         found were diseased and crippled
         wretches who were too weak to pull
         themselves off the trail.  The
         Marines bayoneted them all, not
         wasting any bullets.  The C.O. wrote
         later in his after action report:
         "The pig-sticking was fine."77
    It can scarcely be argued that the aforementioned
incidents reflected any great concern for morality.
Horrible as they might be, however, these incidents did not
occur in the Vietnam War, but during U.S. Marine campaigns
in Haiti in the 1920's, and on Cape Gloucester, New Guinea,
during World War II.  The American leader in both cases was
Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller, winner of five Navy Crosses and a
future Lieutenant General.  The point of relating all of
this is that nothing happened in the Vietnam War that had
not occurred, either in degree or frequency, in any other
war in which Americans had fought.  What then, accounts for
this perception of the Vietnam War being immoral?
         To many civilians it is axiomatic that
         the Vietnam War was the cruelest ever
         waged.  To those of us who experienced
         war first hand, this is hard to understand.
         To the evidence of Vietnam cruelty port-
         rayed by the horrible picture of the
         little girl running down the road seared
         with napalm, one asks about the tens of
         thousands of little girls incinerated in
         the fire bomb raids on Dresden and Tokyo
         in World War II only to be told, "But that
         was different."  To the terrible picture
         of the Saigon police chief shooting the
         Viet Cong terrorist, one asks about the
         summary justice of the French Maquis or
         the Italian partisans and their photo-
         graphs of Mussolini and his mistress
         strung up by their heels, only again to
         be told, "That was different."  To those
         condemning the remark of the Army captain
         in the Delta that "We had to destroy the
         town in order to save it," one quotes the
         Continental Congress's orders:  "If General
         Washington and his council of war should
         be of the opinion that a successful
         attack may be made on the [British] troops
         in Boston, he [may] do it in any manner he
         may think expedient, notwithstanding the
         town and the property in it may thereby be
         destroyed."  Yet again the answer, "That was
         different."  And the critics were right.
         It was different ....
         We had concealed from the American people
         the true nature of war at precisely the
         time that television brought its realities
         into their living rooms in living color.
         As a result, to many Americans Vietnam
         became the most destructive, the most
         horrible, the most terrible war ever waged
         in the history of the world.  This viewpoint
         had persisted in the face of all historical
         evidence to the contrary.78
    The Vietnam War certainly was different.  Television had
changed, not the nature of war, but the perception of it.
More than any other factor it was the television camera that
brought home the reality of war that shocked the nation and
broke its will.  America has not had a war fought on its
soil since the Civil War ended in 1865.  Its population,
save the five percent or so that actually saw combat first
hand, had never experienced the tragedy and unspeakable
cruelties of war, unlike many of the nations of the world.
When the true face of war unfolded before them they watched
with growing revulsion and horror.  Now, in your living room
and in vivid color, this is what napalm really does when it
hits someone; this is what happens to a person when he steps
on a land mine; this is what dead children look like when
collected and stacked up after a rocket attack.  This is
what war is all about, and the American public was sickened
and repulsed by it.  War had not changed, but now everyone
could see it for what it was.  Vice President Humphrey's
words revisited:
          ... this is the first war in this nation's
         history that has been fought on television
         were the actors are real.  Where, in the
         quiet of your living room of your home, or
         your dormitory, or wherever you may be,
         these cruel, ugly dirty facts of life
         and death in war and pain and suffering
         come right to you; and it isn't Holly-
         wood acting.  I've had letters from
         mothers that have seen their boys shot
         down in battle ....
                         CHAPTER IV
         One wonders if in the future a democracy
         which has uninhibited television coverage
         in every home will ever be able to fight
         a war, however just .... The full brutality
         of the combat will be there in close up and
         in color, and blood looks very red on the
         color television screen.79
                                   BBC Commentator Robin Day
    It would be of some benefit to speculate what the
outcome of the American Civil War might have been had there
been a color television in every home in the land,
especially in the North.  What would have been the impact of
seeing firsthand the panicked Union forces running from the
enemy at the Battles of Bull Run?  What would have been the
effect on the support for the war if the draft riots of New
York City had reached into as many homes as the Vietnam era
March on the Pentagon?  Would full visualization of General
Sherman's scorched earth march through Georgia, including
the "zippo raid" on Atlanta make him remembered as a hero?
Or a war criminal?  What would have been the effect of
vividly portraying even such a relatively minor battle such
as Cold Harbor, where 6,000 Union soldiers were cut down in
twenty minutes?  How much enthusiasm for the war effort
would have been left after watching Army surgeons saw off
mangled arms and legs, without benefit of anesthesia?  It
should be clear that these scenes--even if they are fairly
and objectively done--would nonetheless have a terrific
impact.  An we cannot even be guaranteed a fair and unbiased
    The impact that television can convey poses some crucial
problems that will inevitably have to be faced at some
unknown but foreseeable date.  Have we hamstrung overselves,
to the enemy's advantage?  What if Chesty Puller had had a
TV crew along filming the scenes described earlier?  Would
he have gone on to be the Marine Corps' greatest hero,
legendary leader and scourge of the enemy?  Most likely he
would have gotten cashiered or court-martialed, to the
enemy's infinite advantage.  This is not to excuse
wrongdoing, but serve notice that the advent of massive
television coverage on the battlefield will affect not only
the lives and careers of our men, but also the public's
perception of our forces on an unprecedented scale.
	Where does all of this leave us?  Is it enough just to
recognize the leanings of the media and its power?  In
retrospect, it is easy to see that the unlimited and biased
reporting of the Vietnam War severely limited the military's
prosecution of it by undermining public support for the
cause.  It is not a possibility but a probability that this
will occur again should the United States go to the defense
of another ally.  Television is too powerful--it has too
much impact, first tending to rally support for Presidential
initiatives, but undermining and reversing that support in
the long haul.  It is clear that if we accept this erosion
of public willpower our cause, however just and necessary,
is doomed.  The enemy knows that he does not have to win the
battles to win the war, may in fact lose everyone of them as
long as he keeps the war on the television and drags it out
interminably.  What an enviable position!
    It is not necessary, however, that we inflict an
arbitrary defeat upon ourselves.  What we need, contrary to
the failed policies of Vietnam, is not Freedom of the Press,
but Freedom from the Press.  Or, more specifically, freedom
from the television camera and its interference.  Censorship
during war is an established, tried and true method of
preventing the enemy from gaining advantage; what is needed
is not censorship in its pure sense, though, but an
adaptation to fit the times.  In our next war the television
cameras must stay home.  The television reporters themselves
can go, along with their print brethren, they just cannot
take their cameras with them.  They can file written
dispatches to the networks or depart from the country to
give a filmed account, sans war related footage.  Just as
jury in a courtroom is not allowed to view inflamatory color
blowups of a murder victim due to the irrationalities that
this provokes in the minds of the panel, the American public
should not use gory battle scenes as the basis for judging
the U.S. defense of an ally.  It is noteworthy that our
Federal court systems prohibit television coverage of their
courtroom proceedings entirely.  If we can afford these
privileges to accused criminals, can we not give these same
benefits to America's fighting men?  The Fairness Doctrine
has already established that television is a unique medium,
subject to more stringent rules and restrictions than print
journalism; excluding it from the battlefield is simply an
extension of that principle.
    One thing is certain.  If we fail to act, if we continue
unlimited media coverage in a war zone, something that no
other nation on earth permits, America will inevitably
suffer from it.  We must not fail to learn from the real
lesson of the Vietnam War.
                       APPENDIX A
    In the course of conducting research for this project I
became interested in a number of topics about which there
was little or incomplete information available.
Accordingly, to satisfy these questions, and to obtain a
perspective from the media itself, I composed a question-
naire relevant to the subject of this paper and directed it
to the three national television networks for completion.
ABC and NBC responded, with CBS choosing not to
    In the questionnaire I addressed, for the most part,
specific issues that had occurred to me early in the
research project and therefore many of the topics that were
developed as this paper progressed were not covered.
Although I constructed the questions to elicit measurable
and yes/no answers as often as possible, it became apparent
that there was a decided reluctance on the part of the
networks to answer in that fashion.  And finally, I
requested that all answers represent the official corporate
positions of the network, rather than the opinions of
individuals within their bureaucracy.  Here then are the
questions and responses, with my additional comments.
1. Does the Network have a code of ethics for its coverage
of the U.S. military, especially in combat situations?
(Prohibitions against showing the faces of dead U.S.
servicemen, names of casualities before next of kin are
notified, etc.)
    What I was interested in here was what sort of self-
restraint could the military count on from the media itself,
not so much in the censorship of national security items,
but on a more mundane level.  In the aftermath of the
media's disgraceful handling of the Beirut bombing incident,
this question is of no small consequence.  What I had hoped
to obtain was a set of printed guidelines that were composed
and issued by the news agencies for use by their reporters,
editors, and anchormen.  Apparently no such Code of Ethics
         There is no specific code of ethics for
         coverage of the U.S. military, other than the
         general principles we strive to adhere to in
         all our coverage, i.e., accuracy and fairness.
         As for combat situations, we do not identify
         casualties before next of kin are notified
         and our identification always comes from
         official military sources.  I do not believe
         we have shown faces of dead U.S. servicemen.
         ABC adhered to the guidelines set down
         by the U.S. Military Command in Vietnam
         regarding the showing of faces of dead
         U.S. servicemen and naming of casualties
         before the next of kin were notified.  In
         any future military operation, I would
         expect that those same guidelines would
         be promulgated by the Department of Defense
         and ABC News would, of course, respect
    The learning point here is that the networks are going
to set as limits only that which is externally imposed upon
2.  Does the Network utilize film reports from news crews of
foreign countries  or other sources not affiliated with CBS
news?  If so, what specific measures are taken to insure the
authenticity and accuracy of these products?
    This question comes to mind from reading Stanley
Karnow's book Vietnam, A History, in which he relates that a
Time magazine staff correspondent, Phan Xvan An, had been a
clandestine Viet Cong agent all throughout the war--unknown
to Karnow, and also, to his superiors at Time.  Hardly the
source of an objective news report.  It is a common
occurrence to see and hear foreign photo-journalists
collecting our news.  What mechanisms are utilized to ensure
the veracity of these men and their products?  Apparently,
not many.
         We have on occasion utilized film
         reports from crews of foreign countries
         but these are normally from countries
         where we have arrangements with broad-
         casting entities such as the BBC, etc.
         If we have doubts about the authenticity
         of the reports, we would not air them
         but we have not found any reason to be
         suspicious.  I should point out that we
         are dealing with professionals, not
         Many employees of ABC news are not native-
         born Americans.  This is particularly true
         of the staffers in our foreign news bureaus.
         They are supervised by management persons
         in the same way that any other employee is
         supervised and they adhere to the same high
         standards of accuracy we impose on all our
         employees.  We have considerable experience
         with employing foreigners as staff photo-
         journalists and have never had an occasion
         to question their accuracy.
    It should be noted that Time never questioned the
accuracy of Phan Xvan An's dispatches either.
3.  What support and/or information does the Network desire
from U.S. authorities in a war zone?  (Transportation, food,
briefings, etc.)  Do you believe the U.S. military is
legally bound to provide these services?
    In this case I was interested in what the media actually
wanted from the military beyond simple admission to the war
zone, and what they perceived as mandatory services.
         I do not know whether the U.S. military
         is legally bound to provide services such
         as food, briefings, etc.  I doubt that it
         is but I would suspect that you would
         find very few people in the Pentagon who
         would find something wrong in providing
         briefings or information.  That is the
         traditional way of getting information
         to the public.  Our major combat zone
         requirement is one of communications
         logistics, i.e., a means of transmitting
         material.  Obviously, we pay for whatever
         charges are billed including food, lodging,
         In regard to Question 3, ABC requires no
         logistical support from U.S. authorities
         in a war zone.  Ideally we wish to provide
         our own transportation, food and lodging
         and we did this to a large degree in Vietnam.
         Occasionally it was necessary or desirable
         to look to the military to help with trans-
         tion, particularly helicopters.  In covering
         Naval operations, of course, it is impractical
         to travel aboard anything but a U.S. ship but
         we pay for what assistance is provided to
         us and would expect to do so in any battle-
         field environment.  We do not believe the
         U.S. military has any legal obligation
         to provide logistical support to anyone but
         their own members.
    It is of some comfort to learn that the networks do pay
for services received.
4.  Concerning television coverage of United States forces
in combat:
    A.  Censorship by U.S. government officials while
American armed forces are in combat is justified:
	    (1) Never
         (2) Only if the safety of U.S. troops is
         (3) If important advantage will be gained by the
enemy, not directly related to the safety of U.S. troops.
(As determined by an impartial panel)
         (4) Always
         (5) Other
    B.  Does the Network employ censorship?  If so, what
specific standards are utilized?
         Here I wanted to take a moral measure of the
networks, to see if they held anything more dear than
freedom of the press.  If they do, they are not willing to
admit it.  This has very serious implications for the
country's security if we find ourselves in another conflict
where no government censorship is imposed.
         The answer to Question 4 takes far more
         than checking on a multiple choice form.
         Censorship is anathema to any news
         organization.  We are in the business of
         providing information to the public, not
         withholding it.
         The media have always abided by military
         censorship when imposed for national
         security reasons.  I should point out that
         censorship historically has not meant
         denying all media access.  And censorship
         should be imposed only when there is a
         statutory basis for its use.
         The only censorship employed by NBC is on
         the basis of good taste.
    In regards to the last comment by NBC, one has only to
recall the 1980 news film of an Iranian with the charred
skull of an American soldier in his lap picking away at it
with a pocketknife.  So much for "good taste."
5.  Concerning Network television news crews:
    A.  What criteria are used to select those news crew
members who are sent into combat zones?
    B.  Do correspondents/news crews receive special
remuneration or other incentive awards for footage actually
utilized on network broadcasts?
    Since one of the frequent complaints about coverage of
the Vietnam War was that many of the journalists were ill
qualified and didn't understand what they were seeing, I
used this question to determine on what basis correspondents
were selected.  Apparently there are no set standards other
than the judgement of the network management.
         (a) Combat zone coverage is voluntary and
         we do not assign any news crew which
         does not wish to go.
         (b) There are no awards, incentives, or
         bonuses for anybody in any position at
         NBC for footage actually utilized on
         newscasts.  There is increased insurance
         and combat zone pay for working in
         combat zones but nothing else.
         Question 5(A) is difficult to answer
         in that each combat situation is some-
         what different.  We have attempted to
         send Spanish-speaking journalists  to
         El Salvador, for example, because we
         feel that a language ability is important
         in that part of the world.  In the Middle
         East different criteria are used.  In
         general we attempt to send people who
         are in good physical condition, who are
         experienced in covering combat situations
         and who have a language ability appropriate
         to the area in which they are operating.
         There is no incentive award for footage
         used on network broadcasts.
    Part B of this question was prompted by reports in my
research that news crews received a bonus for footage
actually broadcast during the Vietnam War.  Evidently this
was not, or no longer is, the case.
6.  Due to the immense amount of often conflicting footage
from a combat zone and the very limited amount of time
available for broadcast, what policies or guidelines are
used to determine what material is actuall  shown?
    Here I wanted to find out something about how the
networks selected the news actually broadcast, specifically,
were there any corporate guidelines promulgated relating to
selection/rejection of material shown.  Or are the
reporters, writers, and editors free to exercise their
judgement as to what is and what is not newsworthy?
         Question 6 rests on a faulty premise.
         The amount of footage available from a
         combat zone on any given day is very
         limited for a variety of reasons.
         Normal news judgement is exercised
         in assembling an account of the
         activities of the units we have been
         covering.  The criteria brought to
         bear on military situations is no
         different from a news judgement
         situation than in any other news story.
         On a daily basis, there is never an
         immense amount of footage from a combat
         zone.  I do not know what you mean by
         "conflicting" footage.  As for determining
         what material is shown, these judgements
         are based on the news value of the
         particular story, its relation in news
         value to other stories, and nothing else.
    These answers were somewhat surprising, since an evening
news broadcast is only 22 minutes long, with few pieces
running longer than 3 to 5 minutes.  The major networks
invariably have multiple correspondents in any war zone
involving Americans, plus access to foreign news reports, so
it would certainly seem they would have large selection of
news to choose from.  Probably a poorly framed question.
7.  The Networks believe that the First Amendment is
essential to freedom of the press as we know it.  Does it
also believe that institutions such as the U.S. Armed Forces
make possible the continued existence of our form of
government?  If so, does CBS feel any obligation to support
the American military in anyway (other than objective
    I hesitated at length about including this question,
since it makes assumptions, asks for conclusions, and is
clearly opinionated.  Basically, what I wanted to find out
was if there was any realization that the Armed Forces and
other government institutions which they have castigated and
undermined so often for the past twenty years are ultimately
the ones who guarantee the safety of the country--and by
extension, the media itself.  It was somewhat of a fuzzy
question and elicited fuzzy responses.
ABC (from a speech by Washington Bureau Chief, Ed Fouhy):
         The press in our system of government
         is the constant and critical companion
         of the government official--a nagging
         presence, often second guessing, self
         righteous and sometimes irresponsible
         ... a difficult institution to defend,
         but one functioning precisely as the
         authors of the Bill of Rights thought it
         should function.  Sloppy and dissonant,
         often unfocused and sometimes dead
         wrong ...  The antithesis of the ideals
         you embrace and which your profession
         demands, but nevertheless, every bit
         so patriotic as you are and every bit a
         part of American society as God, mother-
         hood and the flag.
         I do not know what you mean by "support
         the military" in any way.  As you know,
         there are a vast number of persons in
         Congress, for example, who believe the
         U.S. Marines should be withdrawn from
         Lebanon.  Are they supporting or
         opposing the military?  There are a
         great number of institutions', the
         military, the Supreme Court, the Congress,
         the Free Press, etc., which makes possible
         the continued existence of our form of
         government.  Surely you are not trying
         to dismiss the abiding importance of the
         electorate in this matter.
    NBC doesn't know what supporting the military means
(which comes as no great surprise), asking if those who
believed the Marines should be withdrawn from Lebanon are
supporting or opposing the military.  The answer, which
seems abundantly clear, is that opposition to the Commander
in Chief's use of the military is, for all practical
purposes, opposition to the military itself.  To think
otherwise would be to rationalize that Jane Fonda was
"supporting" our troops by advocating their withdrawal
during her visit to North Vietnam.
    In any event, there seems to be no great realization
that we are all in the same boat together and that they
should have an interest in a well supported and well
respected Armed Forces.  It is evident to me that the nation
would have to be faced with a crisis of truly immense
proportions to bring that point home to media--for the sake
of us all, I hope that it is not too late at that crucial
1Col Harry G. Summers, Jr., On Strategy:  A Critical
Analysis of the Vietnam War (Novato, CA:  Presidio  Press,
1981), p. 1.
2Joseph A. Amter, Vietnam Verdict (New York:  Continuum,
1982), p. 349.
3Ibid, p. 184.
4Maj James P. Kehoe, The Impact of the Press on Modern
Warfare (Quantico, VA:  Unpublished Command and Staff
Research Paper, 1967), p. 10.
5Interview with Major Fred C. Lash, Marine Corps Public
Affairs, HQMC, 6 Jan 1984.
6Maj James P. Kehoe,     Impact of the Press on Modern
Warfare (Quantico, VA;  Unpublihsed Command and staff 
Reseach Paper, 1967), p. 10.
7John Hohenberg, The News Media:  A Journalist Looks at His
Profession (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc.,
1968), p. 199.
8Maj James P. Kehoe, The Impact of the Press on Modern
Warfare (Quantico, VA.  Unpublihsed Command and Staff
Research Paper, 1967), p. 11.
9Ibid, p. 7.
10LtCol Chandler Goodnow, et al, News Coverage of the TET
Offensive (Carlisle Barracks, PA:  U.S. Army War College,
1969) p. 16-20.
11Ibid, p. 18.
12William A. Wood, Electronic Journalism (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1967), p. 3-5.
13Edith Effron, The News Twisters (Los Angeles:  Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 179.
14Ibid, p. 2.
15Ibid, p. 174.
16Ernest W. Lefever, TV and National Defense - An Analysis
of CBS News, 1972-1973 (Boston, Virginia:  Institute for
American Strategy Press, 1974), p. 6.
17Ibid, p. 7, 180.
18William A. Henry, et al, "Journalism Under Fire", Time,
December 12, 1983, p. 32.
19George F. Will, ed. Press, Politics and Popular Government
(Washington D. C.:  American Enterprise Institute for
Public Policy Research, 1972), p. 11.
20William A. Henry, et al, "Journalism Under Fire," Time,
  December 12, 1983, p. 82.
21Edith Effron, THe News Twisters (Los Angeles: Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 195-196.
22Ibid, p. 196-197.
23William A. Henry, et al, "Journalism Under Fire," Time,
December 12, 1983, p. 76.
24Ibid, p. 77.
25Ibid, p. 76.
26Ibid, p. 76.
27Ernest W. Lefever, TV and National Defense - An Analysis
of CBS News, 1972-1973 (Boston, Virginia:  Institute for
American Strategy Press, 1974), p. 14.
28Edith Effron, The News Twisters, (Los Angeles:  Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 179.
29Robert Howard, Bias in Television News  a Content
Analysis, (Florida State University:  Unpublished Doctoral
Dissertation, 1972), p. iv.
30Ibid.  p. 121-122.
31Ernest W. Lefever, TV and National Defense - An Analysis
of CBS News, 1972-1973 (Boston, Virginia:  Institute for
American Strategy Press, 1974), p. 102-104.
32Ibid.  p. 78-79, 95.
33Ibid.  p. 131.
34Edith Effron, The News Twisters, (Los Angeles:  Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 37.
35George Arthur Bailey, The Vietnam War According to Chet,
David, Walter, Harry, Peter, Bob, Howard and Frank, (Ann
Arbor Michigan, University Microfilms International,
published on demand), p. 358.
36Ernest W. Lefever, TV and National Defense - An Analysis
of CBS New, 1972-1973 (Boston, Virginia:  Institute for
American Strategy Press, 1974), p. 13.
37Edith Effron, The News Twisters, (Los Angeles:  Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 135-142.
38Ibid.  p. 179.
39Ibid.  p. 184-185.
40Steven Cohen, ed, Vietnam:  Anthology and Guide to a
Television History, (New York:  Alfred A. Knoph, 1983),
p. xxviii.
41Ibid.  p. xxxix.
42Ibid.  p. xxxi.
43William A. Henry, et al, "Journalism Under Fire," Time,
December 12, 1983, p. 82.
44Steven Cohen, ed, Vietnam:  Anthology and Guide to a
Television History, (New York:  Alfred A. Knoph, 1983),
p. xxvi.
45Edith Effron, The News Twisters, (Los Angeles:  Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 8.
46Robert Howard, Bias in Television News, A Content
Analysis, (Florida State University:  Unpublished Doctoral
Dissertation, 1972), p. 16.
47Mark Fishman, Manufacturing the News, (Austin, Texas:
University of Texas Press, 1980), p. 4-5.
48Edith Effron, The News Twisters, (Los Angeles:  Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 177.
49George Arthur Bailey, The Vietnam War According to Chet,
David, Walter, Harry, Peter, Bob, Howard, and Frank.  (Ann
Arbor, Michigan, University Microfilms International,
published on demand), p. 152.
50Ernest W. Lefever, TV and National Defense - An Analysis
of CBS News, 1972-1973 (Boston, Virginia:  Institute for
American Strategy Press, 1974), p. 36-37.
51Thomas M. McNulty, Network Television Documentary
Treatment of the Vietnam War, 1965 to 1969, (Indiana
University:  Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, 1974),
p. 82.
52Edith Effron, The News Twisters, (Los Angeles:  Nash
Publishing, 1971), p. 25-26.
53Ernest W. Lefever, TV and National Defense - An Analysis
of CBS News, 1972-1973 (Boston, Virginia:  Institute for
American Strategy Press, 1974), p. 125.
54Ibid.  p. 127.
55Maj James P. Kehoe, The Impact of the Press on Modern
Warfare, (Quantico, VA:  Unpublished Command and Staff
Research Paper, 1967), p. 13.
56Ibid.  p. 23.
57George Arthur Bailey, The Vietnam War According to Chet,
David, Walter, Harry, Peter, Bob, Howard and Frank, (Ann
Arbor, Michigan; University Microfilms International,
published on demand), p. 237.
58Ibid.  p.  277.
59Ibid.  p.  317.
60Ibid.  p.  347-348.
61Ibid.  p.  349-350.
62Ibid.  p.  307-308.
63Ibid.  p.  352.
64LtCol Chandler Goodnow, et al, News Coverage of the TET
Offensive, (Carlisle Barracks, PA:  U.S. Army War College,
1969), p. 235-236.
65George Arthur Bailey, The Vietnam War According to Chet,
David, Walter, Harry, Peter, Bob, Howard and Frank, (Ann
Arbor, Michigan; University Microfilms International,
published on demand), p. 261.
66LtCol Chandler Goodnow, et al, News Coverage of the TET
Offensive, (Carlisle Barracks, PA:  U.S. Army War College,
1969), p. 141.
67Stanley Karnow, Vietnam - A History (New York:  The Viking
Press, 1983), p. 466.
68Carl Lowe, ed, Television and American Culture, (New York,
The H. H. Wilson Company, 1981), p. 99.
69LtCol Chandler Goodnow, et al, News Coverage of the TET
Offensive, (Carlisle Barracks, PA:  U.S. Army War College,
1969), p. 90.
70Ibid.  p. 192.
71George Arthur Bailey, The Vietnam War According to Chet,
David, Walter, Harry, Peter, Bob, Howard and Frank, (Ann
Arbor, Michigan; University Microfilms International,
published on demand), p. 77.
72Cleveland Amory, "What Walter Cronkite Misses Most,"
Parade, March 11, 1984, p. 4.
73Brigadier General Douglas Kinnard, The War Managers,
(Hanover, New Hampshire:  University Press of New England,
1976), p. 166.
74Stanley Karnow, Vietnam - A History, (New York: The Viking
Press, 1983), p. 31.
75Barry Rubin, International News and the American Media,
(Beverly Hills, CA:  Sage Publications, 1977), p. 64.
76Burke Davis, Marine! The Life of LtGen Lewis B. (Chesty)
Puller, USMC (Ret), (Boston, Mass:  Little Brown and
Company, 1962), p. 35-36.
77Ibid.  p. 200.
78Col Harry G. Summers, Jr., On Strategy:  The Vietnam War
in Context, (Novato, California:  Presidio Press, 1981),
p. 23.
79Barry Rubin, International News and the American Media,
(Washington, D.C., Center for Strategic and International
Studies, 1978), p. 29.
Amory, Cleveland.  "What Walter Cronkite Misses Most."
    Parade, March 11, 1984.
Amter, Joseph A.  Vietnam Verdict.  New York:  Continuum,
Bailey, George Arthur.  The Vietnam War According to Chet,
    David, Walter, Harry, Peter, Bob, Howard and Frank:  A
    Content Analysis of Journalistic Performance.  Ann
    Arbor, Michigan, University Microfilms International,
    1974 (Doctoral Dissertation, published on demand).
Cohen, Steven.  Vietnam:  Anthology and Guide to a
    Television History:  New York:  Alfred A. Knoph, 1983.
Davis, Burke.  Marine!  The Life of LtGen Lewis B. (Chesty)
    Puller, USMC (Ret).  Boston, MA:  Little, Brown and
    Company, 1962.
Effron, Edith.  The News Twisters.  Los Angeles:  Nash
    Publishing, 1971.
Fishman, Mark.  Manufacturing the News.  Austin, Texas:
    University of Texas Press, 1980.
Goodnow, LtCol Chandler, et al.  News Coverage of the TET
    Offensive.  Carlisle Barracks, PA:  U.S. Army War
    College, 1969.
Gravel, Major Marcus J.  Impact of Television on the Conduct
    of War.  Quantico, VA:  Unpublished Command and Staff
    Research Paper, 1967.
Henry, William A., et al, "Journalism Under Fire," Time,
    December 12, 1983.
Hohenberg, John.  The News Media:  A Journalist Looks at
    His Profession, New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
    Inc., 1968.
Howard, Robert.  Bias in Television News, A Content
    Analysis.  Florida State University:  Unpublished
    Doctoral Dissertation, 1972.
Karnow, Stanley.  Vietnam - A History.  New York:  The
    Viking Press, 1983.
Kehoe, Maj James P.  The Impact of the Press on Modern
    Warfare.  Quantico, VA:  Unpublished Command and
    Staff Research Paper, 1967.
Kinnard, BrigGen Douglas.  The War Managers.  Hanover,
    New Hampshire:  University of New England, 1976.
Lefever, Ernest W.  TV and National Defense - An Analysis of
    CBS News, 1972-1973.  Boston, Virginia:  Institute for
    American Strategy Press, 1974.
Lowe, Carl, ed.  Television and American Culture.  New
    York:  H. H. Wilson Company, 1981.
McNulty, Thomas M.  Network Television Documentary Treatment
    of the Vietnam War, 1965 to 1969.  Indiana University:
    Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, 1974.
Rubin, Barry.  International News and the American Media.
    Beverly Hills, CA:  Sage Publications, 1977.
Summers, Col Harry G. Jr., On Strategy:  A Critical Analysis
    of the Vietnam War.  Novato, CA:  Presidio Press, 1981.
Will, George F., ed.  Press, Politics and Popular
    Government.  Washington, D.C.:  American Enterprise
    Institute for Public Policy Research, 1972.
Wood, William A.  Electronic Journalism.  New York:
    Columbia University Press, 1967.
Lash, Maj Fred C., Marine Corps Public Affairs Division
    (Code PAM), HQMC, Washington, D. C., 6 January 1984

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