Journalists make their own news in Iraq war reporting

NEW YORK: The coverage of the war in Iraq last week continued to grab headlines almost as prominent as those for the conflict itself.

NEW YORK: The coverage of the war in Iraq last week continued to grab headlines almost as prominent as those for the conflict itself.

But the media news coming from the Middle East took on a sour taste, as faux pas by Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera cost them their assignments, and a few reporters went missing for several days after being thrown out of Baghdad. The news called attention to the dangers, ethical and otherwise, posed by the unparalleled access afforded to reporters on the ground.

The four expelled journalists, two from Newsday, turned up in Jordan.

Since the war began, two journalists, an Australian and an Englishman, have died. None of these journalists were embedded with troops.

"From a safety perspective, it is certainly a risky venture," said Joel Campagna, Mideast program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"When you're embedded, you are traveling with a combat unit, and with that comes the risks of being on the battlefield."

Campagna said that his organization had yet to hear any complaints from news groups in terms of safety. But, he added, a number of reporters have left the region, citing safety concerns.

A larger story was Arnett's statement on Iraqi TV that the allied war plan had failed. The statement led to MSNBC and National Geographic Explorer terminating their associations with Arnett, whose star was made in the 1991 Gulf War.

"He was out of line," said Gary Hill, chairman of the Society for Professional Journalists ethics committee. "He allowed the Iraqis to trade on the credibility of the news organization."

Hill lauded the work of the more than 600 embeds, but conceded that the access could lead to the compromise of independence and other ethical issues.

"Overall, it appears successful, but it's not done, and there have been errors," he said.

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