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BLOG 4: Role of Press during a War

“The Bush Administration took leave of reality and plunged our country into a war so poorly planned it soon turned into a disaster. The story of how high officials misled the country has been told. But they couldn’t have done it on their own; they needed a complaint press, to pass on their propaganda as news and cheer them on” – Bill Moyer from “Buying the War”

One of the most important jobs journalists have is to act as a watchdog for all public/political figures and institutions. I have no objections that journalists should challenge the president and military leaders during a war, because it is their role during a war to inform and educate the public, so that the public can have all sides of the story.

However the event of September 11 and the following years were a complicated time for the journalists and the press as it was clearly shown in Bill Moyer’s “Buying the War.” In the beginning of the film, Bill Moyer explains the press and journalists being patriotic and supportive to the Bush administration’s decisions on the War with Iraq. I believe that after such a major crisis and threat such as September 11 the press as Americans and human beings had a right to be Patriotic.

“I think the atmosphere in the United states after September 11th was so overwhelmingly patriotic. And overwhelmingly: “we must do something about this”” – Bob Simon

I wish the journalists were more critical. They should have asked questions to our leaders to provide more accurate evidences for a link between the event and Iraq. Yes, it was touchy and sensitive issue and even called to be “Anti-American” for reporters questioning our involvement in Iraq and the war. However this does not mean that the journalists should step back and “copy-and-paste” what the officials say on their report. This is not a journalist’s role. Since they are the only source to the inside of the government and public figures, they have to investigate and inform public the truth.

Similarly the role of the journalists after the crisis is to ask questions again, but in this time their questions should be more centered on future plans: “How our leaders will solve this problem” or “How are they going to protect the nation”. I believe after such attack, most people feel great insecurity, and even fear about potential following attack. This is when journalists step in and ask such questions for the citizens in order to answer their questions.

In the following youtube clip, Charles Lewish, the best selling author and a journalist, analyzes the reason the journalists failed to do their jobs during 9/11 and how the failure effected on the current journalist’ status. Charles Lewish says that at the time of 9/11, although the journalists could have been more critical, they were clearly hesitant and passive in doing their jobs which resulted their full acceptance to the administration and to take over the media.

  1. March 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Do you think that challenging a president or questioning an administration can every be bad for a country or its citizens? Should journalists help support feelings of patriotism if the citizens of a country are hurting because of a tragedy, or should those journalists press on and continue to ask tough questions?

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