The Death of American Journalism Is Greatly Exaggerated

Good American journalism still exists.  You just have to work a little harder at finding the best examples.  I tend to view public broadcasting as superior to commercial broadcasting, which is why I’m sharing this example of good journalism from National Public Radio.  NPR has come under attack in the last decade or so.  Many conservative Republicans do not value having government-subsidized radio and television, but most Americans still value non-commercial broadcasting that relies on both foundation and individual contributions as well as some government funds.  The same critics of public broadcasting often think nothing of spending millions on propaganda broadcasting efforts like Al Hurra or Radio Sawa that have been used as information warfare tools in the War on Terror.

Have a listen to this NPR broadcast that features a radio interview with a German-born Associated Press war photographer, Horst Faas, whose pictures from the Vietnam War made him a household name.  Horst, 79, died on 10 May 2012.  Take a look at his photographs.  The Vietnam War is often referred to as America’s “living room war,” when many journalists covering the conflict sent home images broadcast on the evening news.  In the 1960s and 70s, the US did not yet have cable television so we relied on the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) for our news and entertainment.  Further, still photos in popular magazines like Life and Look dominated the public’s perception of the war in Vietnam.  These photos were quite graphic in comparison to the sanitizing effect that post-Vietnam media coverage has taken.

What do you think of the images that Faas took of the young men fighting in Vietnam?

Can you imagine how such images would shift public opinion on the war?  Even President Lyndon B. Johnson was so moved by how American journalists were covering Vietnam that he chose not to run for reelection in 1968.  He felt strongly that the media had swung public opinion away from the war, particularly a special report about Vietnam made by Walter Cronkite, anchor of the CBS News.


6 thoughts on “The Death of American Journalism Is Greatly Exaggerated

  1. I think this picture is a great picture that represents a sense of tension and a feeling of being at a war. It would talk much more about the Vietnam War than any other articles about it. Some might say that the photographer, Horst Faas, should have helped those kids dying before taking pictures and criticized him. But I think we need the combat photographer because the picture tells us most how the things are like, as I said above. I believe that Faas’s photo helped the Vietnam War to become widely known. I tried to figure out how this image would shift public opinion on the war but I couldn’t get the solution. According to your article, I guess this picture gave the wrong idea to the public and this misunderstanding was lead intentionally by the public broadcasting that you think is reliable. I would like to know in the class what you wanted to tell by this article.

  2. If I went to the battlefield, I would feel, “Why I am here?” But today, there are many media so we can learn facts from diverse angles. Maybe, we can find meaning of going to battlefield.

  3. Despite the advent of television and Internet, today we are nowhere near the concept of “living room war” where war coverages are more strictly controlled by the military. Information is valued significantly in the realms of electronic warfare and in such technological attachment, the military inevitably withholds transparency from the war correspondents. Little do we know about the ongoing battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. The disclosures of the Afghan war by WikiLeaks tells us that inconvenient truths are buried while positive results are exaggerated.

  4. Good American journalism may still exists. However, it is not easy for untrained people to tell if it’s reliable since there are no criteria to judge. Now many people are skeptical about commercial broadcasting. Instead, they rely on public broadcasting. Although public point of view may be easily sympathized, it does not mean it’s telling the whole truth. It may be too personal, or subjective. Whichever we chose to watch, we should not swallow the whole thing anyway.

  5. I didn’t know the Vietnam War is connected to media and television. I heard that a war photographer was blamed for his attitude toward a little boy who was nearly dead and in front of the photographer. He didn’t help the boy. He was just taking the pictures. In this case of Faas, I think it is not completely the same but I’m sure he was at least arousing mixed feelings. I went to Vietnam during spring holiday. I visited the place where America attacked (I don’t know how to spell in English. It is pronounced “Kuchi” in Japanese.), and I remembered everything, for example, pictures, refugees living in underground, etc. when I saw the photographs Faas took.

  6. The pros and cons of public broadcasting are hard to determine, but I feel the necessity of bringing the right information at the right time, whether it is in a form of propaganda or some breaking news. This may apply toward stories about Obama. His way of visiting Afghanistan may be a way of trying to counteract the controversial issue that is being presented by Obama’s stance on the war and all the broadcasting that is explaining the chaos of the war.

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