Censorship of Media Reporting of U.S. Wars

The Vietnam conflict and the Persian Gulf War were landmarks in the evolution of media coverage of international conflicts. In Vietnam, where war was never officially declared, the press enjoyed greater freedom from military censorship than it had in previous engagements, such as the Korean War and World War II. In addition, the growth of television reporting in Vietnam made this the first war whose sights and sounds were quickly available in American living rooms. Though it may be an overstatement to credit the media with turning public opinion against American involvement in Vietnam, it is true that, by 1968, the Johnson administration's framing of the situation in southeast Asia was superseded by the media's influential conviction that the conflict was permanently stalemated. By the time of the Persian Gulf War, 24-hour-a-day, real-time coverage had become a reality, yet all reporting was also subject to intensive military censorship. Television played a vital role in shaping Americans' overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to the Gulf War. But, despite vastly improved means of covering the war, the various media were left with little to report other than exactly what the Allied leaders wanted people to see and hear. Careful management of media access to the war meant that political and military leaders were able to frame the story in their own terms and, in effect, use the new technology for their own ends.

In "framing" a newsworthy story, political and military



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Category: Government - C
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