Media’s Role in War Explored at UT Conference

KNOXVILLE — The role of the media in the recent Iraq war was the subject of a day-long conference presented by the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy Tuesday at the University Center auditorium.

The conference, entitled “The War: Iraq and the Embedded Journalists,” featured journalists and photographers who were embedded with American troops, as well as military and Pentagon officials, members of the UT faculty, and representatives of regional and national media.

One journalist who spoke of his experiences during the conflict was CNN’s Gary Tuchman, who was embedded with the U.S. Air Force during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tuchman said the embed program worked well and gave journalists a great view of what was happening.

“I thing embedding is wonderful, and not for the reasons some people might presume,” Tuchman said. “I’m not pro-war, I’m not anti-war, I want to cover the war, and being embedded allowed us access that we haven’t had in Afghanistan and certainly didn’t have during the Panama invasion.”

Tuchman said some critics had questioned the objectivity of embedded reporters, but it was never a problem for him.

“When people criticize us and say that as embedded reporters, we can’t tell the truth and the military’s telling us what to do, I tell them that there are also unilateral reporters who are out there too, verifying what we report,” Tuchman said. “I also tell them that of every story I wrote while I was embedded with the Air Force, no one read my stories before they were broadcast, except for my bosses at CNN.”

The conference was the first program presented by the Baker Center. Named for Tennessee’s longtime senator, former White House Chief of Staff, and current ambassador to Japan Howard Baker, the center will serve as a research source for students and scholars, develop educational programs to further the public’s knowledge of our system of governance, and highlight the critical importance of public service.