Embeds, 'Unilaterals' Learning to Survive


From the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier to central Iraq, embedded reporters are doggedly trying to show this war first-hand, through sandstorms and blackouts.

Nearly 50 correspondents are embedded for national TV news organizations. By satellite uplinks, by videophone and sometimes just by phone, they are reporting the progress of the war.

From the field, correspondents say the Pentagon's rules of engagement are manageable. Don't report locations or other strategic details. Don't show American battlefield casualties live, so next-of-kin can be notified. But a few gray areas are being exposed, like showing injured American soldiers.

"There have been moments of disagreement, but there is always discussion," between reporters and officers, said CBS News's Jim Axelrod, who is embedded with the First Brigade of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

The embeds provide snapshots from the field, the slice of the war their units are fighting. Out in the desert, it's hard for them to know how they fit into their network's coverage. Their contact with the outside is limited to their news desks and an occasional radio snippet they hear from BBC World service or the Voice of America.

Flanking the embeds are scores of roaming, unattached war correspondents—called "unilaterals" in this conflict—trying to capture the broader view. They travel on their own schedules, and mainly at their own risk.

Unlike embedded reporters, unilaterals aren't guaranteed cover from the U.S. military. "We pose a prominent and soft target," said CBS News reporter Scott Pelley, who is in Iraq as a unilateral "People are desperate for food, water and vehicles. I have all that."

For the first week of the war, Pelley and his six-person crew piggybacked with various military units, the British Royal Marines, the U.S. Navy, and late last week, the Army. "We're waiting for our welcome to run out," Pelley said. "We're living off the land."

ABC News correspondent David Wright said embedded journalists have great access, but narrow focus. He enjoys the freedom to be mobile. "We can talk to the locals, we can cover damage that we see along the way."

Embeds are free to break away from their units at any time. If they leave, though, they can't rejoin. Some may go home as news outlets rotate them out, particularly if the conflict stretches on for months. But most reporters are likely invested to Baghdad and beyond.


War Stories

The networks had nearly 50 reporters in and around Iraq and last week, a few of them took time to talk to Broadcasting & Cable's Allison Romano about life during wartime