Embedded Journalism for Military and Media

Categories: PoliticsWar


During the past wars, journalists have very limited access to information regarding military operations in other countries. Reporters received neither assistance nor protection from the military.

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The military and media have been estranged to one another for many years despite sharing important roles in advancing democracy. Oftentimes, the media give erroneous accounts of US military operations due to insufficient information from the military. Under the First Amendment, reporters have the right to free press informing the public the truth but the military insists that disclosing classified documents would place the safety of the soldiers at risk and the defense system in jeopardy.

However, today the military sees the need to use the media in its war plan as strategists shifted their focus on information warfare. So in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq, the military allowed the media to cover the war. This system is called embedded journalism where reporters have been attached to a unit guaranteeing full coverage of the war.

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This paper deals with the advantages and disadvantages of embedded journalism.

 Unlike the two world wars where the United States armed forces primarily relied on its weapons to achieve victory, today’s military strategy is now shifted into information warfare. Besides using the usual information from intelligence, the military saw the advantage of utilizing the media to influence the outcome of the war. This new approach gradually developed through the years as media were then granted very limited access to covering wars and received little assistance from the military.

The military and the media are essential elements to democracy, one protects and preserve democracy including the constitution while the other guarantees freedom of the press under the First Amendment so the public may know the truth. Oftentimes, the two entities collide in the performance of their duties. Despite the conflict, the military and media recognize the importance of each other’s role. That’s why during the 2003 invasion of Iraq over 600 reporters across the globe were given the opportunity to cover the battle in a wider scale.

The embedded press is one option the military perceived to improve its relations with the media in return for controlling the information environment and use it for its own benefits in winning wars. Under this strategy, reporters were expected to live, work and travel as part of the units with which they are embedded to facilitate maximum, in-depth coverage of U.S. forces in combat and related operations but with some restrictions (Pfau, Haigh, Gettle, Donnelly, Scott, Warr & Wittenberg, 2004, p. 74). Allowing reporters to go along with the units could enhance the image of the military.

The public may know how dedicated, professional, and well-trained the US soldiers are. As a public relations plan, embedded reporters can help build the credibility of the military as they would always receive verified accounts of what truly happened and not rely on unnamed sources that could lead to erroneous reporting. In addition, the media can facilitate the military’s war propaganda against the enemy by showing the evils of a state leader like Saddam Hussein. Before the invasion, stories about Saddam’s atrocities were all over newspapers, televisions, and radios describing how he killed his own people through massacres and lethal gas and how he developed weapons of mass destruction.

News reports like these coupled with horrific images or footages could rally support for the war making the military the sole protector of human rights and promoter of freedom. Through the media, the military can traumatize the enemy by showing off its hardware and technology in fighting battles. Time and again, the media have made documentaries on the military might of the US before the war displaying various capabilities of its machineries from planes to tanks to helicopters to smart bombs.

Knowing that the media can report in real time, the military can use this opportunity to initiate a disinformation campaign or psychological operation during the war to distract the enemy’s attention about the advancing troops thus launch a surprise attack or tell certain leaders and cities have already been captured. This is to shock and discourage the people from the enemy side. So, in a sense allowing journalists to get closer meant the military had more chance to try and manage the message (Shah, 2005, ¶23).

However there are also disadvantages in having a reporter tag along with military operations. Any mistakes or misbehavior soldiers commit can easily be known that might tarnish the reputation of the military. Typical examples are soldiers killing unarmed civilians, women and children, mistaken for enemies or due to misunderstanding because of barrier language. At times coalition forces and reporters have been killed in friendly fires.

Reports of soldiers maltreating prisoners of war have also dominated the headlines. In times of conflict, many embedded journalists have been added to the long list of casualties as the military can not always protect them all the time. Due to their resourcefulness some reporters might get hold of classified documents that may jeopardize and disrupt major operations. The adverse consequence could be damaging to the military and its forces in the field. Leakage of confidential information is always a possibility whenever the media is around.

Maintaining secrets— denying vital knowledge to the enemies of the United States—is an essential part of the military’s responsibilities. On the other hand, the press strives to be as informed as possible on as many topics as possible; concealing information is anathema to a reporter (Aukofer & Lawrence, 1995, p. 23). This is where the media and military clash on the issue of information security. The media should know that disclosing top secret documents could paralyze military strategic operations and endanger the lives of soldiers. If the enemy knows the plan in advance, the US military could lose the war and the country’s defense system weakened.

Meanwhile, having the right to free press the media has moral obligations to safeguard the integrity of a state. Reporters could expose government scandals or corruptions but not the country’s national security because it could destroy America and put the safety of every citizen at risk. There should be a limit to reporting regarding military operations because of the sensitive information involve that might devastate the US armed forces and make the country vulnerable to enemy attacks as well as threaten international peace and security.

To compromise both parties should first recognize and respect each other’s role as guardians of democracy. In covering wars, the media has to follow the rules set aside by the military and that the military should give a briefing or training for reporters. There should be an agreement signed by media what or what not to cover. This contract will contain the limitations of reporting and how reporters should conduct themselves in the battlefield so that every move is coordinated. The military should likewise be educated on the functions of the media so that its personnel will be able to help reporters fulfill their duties. Finally, military officials should always make themselves available for the media to establish communication and partnership.


  1. Pfau, M., Haigh, M., Gettle, M., Donnelly, M, Scott, G., Warr, D., &Wittenberg, E. (2004). Embedding Journalists in Military Combat Units: Impact on Newspaper Story Frames and Tones. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. Vol. 81, No. 1, Spring 2004.
  2. Shah, A. (2005). War, Propaganda and the Media. Global Issues. Mainstream Media. Retrieved September 6, 2007, from
  3. http://www.globalissues.org/HumanRights/Media/Military.asp#EmbeddedJournalistsAnAdvantagefortheMilitary
  4. Aukofer, F. & Lawrence, W. P. (1995). America’s Team: The Odd Couple. A Report on the Relationship between the Media and the Military. The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Retrieved September 6, 2007 from http://www.freedomforum.org/publications/first/mediaandthemilitary/americasteamfull.pdf
  5. Paul, C., & Kim, J. J. (2004). Reporters on the Battlefield: The Embedded Press System in Historical Context. National Security Research Division. RAND Corporation. Retrieved Sept. 6, 2007, from http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2004/RAND_MG200.pdf
Updated: Dec 13, 2023
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Embedded Journalism for Military and Media. (2017, Mar 25). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/about-embedded-journalism-for-military-and-media-essay

Embedded Journalism for Military and Media essay
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