PEJ: Embedded reporting reality

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While press critics complain that journalists are too often willing to
interpret, the embedding of U.S. journalists with Allied troops during the
current Gulf War has exposed the American viewing public to an overwhelming
number of stories from the battlefront that are primarily factual, according to
a new study from the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

PEJ -- affiliated with Columbia University and funded by the Pew Charitable
Trusts -- found embedded coverage to be largely anecdotal, "exciting and dull,
combat-focused and mostly live and unedited. Much of it lacks context but it is
usually rich in detail. It has all the virtues and vices of reporting only what
you can see."

Although the reports came from within or near active battle areas, "not a
single story examined showed pictures of people being hit by fired weapons."

Yet, the report found, "too often, the rush to get information on-air live
created confusion, errors and even led journalists to play the game of
'Telephone,' in which partial accounts become distorted and exaggerated in the
retelling."

So far, the report said, embedded reporting suggests that "the war is less
like reality television than [it is like] reality itself -- confusing, incomplete,
sometimes numbing, sometimes intense and not given to simple story
lines."

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