WASHINGTON: The Pentagon in recent weeks has been allowing the entertainment media to gain the kind of access to troops in Afghanistan that it has repeatedly denied journalists.An ABC/Jerry Bruckheimer collaboration called Profiles from the Front Line, a reality series featuring actual soldiers engaged in the war on terror, is causing a furor among American media. A VH-1 show called Military Diaries Project, in which troops are given camcorders to tape their thoughts and daily routines, and American Fighter Pilots, a CBS production, are also making waves.
While reporters are being held at arm's length by Pentagon public affairs officers, often being forced to ignore news breaking in front of them in favor of writing from press releases written thousands of miles away, the producers of these shows are being ushered onto the front lines.
"It would be great to give access to the reality shows had legitimate journalists been treated well and been given access, but they haven't been,
said Stephen Hess, a member of the Brookings Institution, which recently held a forum on the treatment of journalists during the war in Afghanistan.
Adding to the controversy is the fact that Pentagon officials will screen and edit all footage before it's released. But it is taking the position that the news media does not hold a monopoly on American audiences. "There are a variety of ways of providing information to the American people,
said rear admiral Craig Quigley. "This is a great way."
Commented Hess, "I think it's exceptionally poor form to do this for some entertainment unit, and justify it because a lot more people maybe watch some entertainment show than read The Washington Post."