Accuracy in Media

For the 60th anniversary of D-Day, many newspapers ran Ernie Pyle’s June 12, 1944, dispatch from Normandy Beach.  Pyle, considered the greatest war correspondent this country ever produced, called the allied success a miracle and wrote about courage and heroism.  Of our troops, he wrote, “they certainly have the spirit that wins battles and eventually wars.”

One reader wrote that he hoped the Washington Times would reprint more of Pyle’s stories.  He said these stories, “showing the upbeat attitude of the American GI, would “provide a good lesson for today’s press covering our military forces as they face war on terrorism around the world, today and in the coming years.”  Another said, “Today’s correspondents, in all likelihood, would have sent despairing stories of miscues, failures and scandal.  Pyle knew who the heroes were.  Today, reporters are more interested in discrediting bravery and valor.  This is a story every journalism teacher in the world should use as an example of great journalism.”

Instead of having journalists like Pyle, we are subjected to the likes of CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, who, during an appearance at the World War II Memorial, described the war in Iraq as “not, in my estimation, a good war?it sure is not a noble enterprise.”  Asked about this by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, Wallace defended his comments, saying that World War II “unified the country” and “That’s not what’s going on now.”  Wallace went on to say that soldiers in World War II “died in the service of something that they deeply believed in.”

Wallace ignores the role of the press today in dividing the country.  And his comments were themselves further evidence of this divisive role.  Wallace’s comments are not only wrong but demoralizing to American troops on the battlefield.  It’s mind-boggling how he could describe the Iraq war as somehow not a noble cause.  The U.S. has liberated a country from a brutal dictator who had weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorists.  Our troops understand that they are participating in a noble cause. 

Back in 1987, Wallace appeared on a panel of journalists and was asked what he would do if he were traveling with and covering enemy forces and realized U.S. troops were walking into a deadly ambush.  Wallace said that he would not warn the troops in advance.  Wallace said that he would regard it “simply as a story they [journalists] were there to cover.”  Asked if a journalist had a higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something rather than just cover the action as American soldiers were being shot and killed, Wallace said, “No.  You don’t have a higher duty.  No.  No.  You’re a reporter!”

Wallace may be a reporter but he’s certainly not of the caliber of Ernie Pyle.  Tragically, an “Ernie Pyle Journalism Award” was given in 2003 to Wallace’s associate, Walter Cronkite, who helped turn the public against victory in Vietnam through biased reporting.  Wallace apparently wants to go down in history as the journalist who undermined the war in Iraq while our troops were fighting and dying on the battle field.  He is a living example of how journalism has changed for the worse.

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