I've sensed anger from some who are upset over the negative tone the mass media have taken toward the federal government in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Some are asking why we couldn't all come together the way we did after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Why has this become a left/right political issue that is dividing the country? My personal belief is that it is because there has been poor leadership from our government at all levels -- federal, state and local. The media, for the most part, report what they see and hear and then provide historical context and analysis. There are exceptions, of course, that go both ways.
Army journalism is really public relations. We tell the Armyâ€™s story from its perspective. We learned very early during the twelve-week course at the Defense Information School that objectivity, while sought by individual journalists, isnâ€™t encouraged in military journalism. On the first day of class at the all-services school, the instructors told us we werenâ€™t â€œFirst Amendmentâ€ journalists. In other words, we had to make whatever branch we represented look not good but golden.
Is that the type of journalism these critics of the media would prefer? I would hope not. I believe the harsh criticism currently coming from mainstream media outlets is a form of tough love. It's the same criticism various media outlets have heaped upon themselves when they goof, with some exceptions, of course. Some folks in the media are probably thrilled that the Bush administration now has egg on its face because it bungled the disaster recovery efforts, but those types do not represent the majority.
In the meantime, I highly recommend this piece by Putnam, who has served admirably as a photographer in the National Guard and will return to Iraq as a freelance journalist.