- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

No guns, no cologne, a Kevlar helmet and free combat rations: Journalists mobilize to cover a war with Iraq.
It's a complex and sobering business for members of the "embedded media," who will cover combat from the field rather than a hotel rooftop somewhere in Jordan or Saudi Arabia.
"The military will notify your news media organization in the event that you are injured or killed," a U.S. Marine advisory tells journalists, who will arrive at eight staging sites beginning tomorrow.
Press members are not allowed to carry weapons, wear bright clothes or use "scented products." They are advised to buy their own military-style dog tags and write their blood types and Social Security numbers on their left boots.
And yes, journalists will receive free MREs meals ready to eat from their military hosts, available in vegetarian and kosher "on request."
Reporters may never look at baby wipes in the same way again. They are among the 44 items required in the combat journalist's backpack, along with a small shovel, funnel, Cipro pills and trash bags.
"This has been quite an effort for both sides media and military," said U.S. Army Maj. Tim Allen, Pentagon press officer. "This is a large-scale effort to offer as much media access as we can."
In recent weeks, 500 embedded slots have become available to the press, with 20 percent designated to foreign media. Newspapers were offered, on average, two to eight positions. Some garnered as many as 16.
Though a few print journalists long to emulate gutsy World War II reporter Ernie Pyle, Iraq portends to be a broadcasters' war. CNN, for example, will send 200 people, of which 45 are correspondents, a spokesman for the cable network said yesterday.
It is an expensive prospect, possibly costing broadcasters $100 million, according to an estimate by the Los Angeles Times.
"Problems are mostly logistical," Maj. Allen said. "People have to get their visas. They have to get here; they have to get their equipment here. But the media has been cooperative. It's been pretty good."
Stories "will not be subject to a security review," and television correspondents will be authorized "to broadcast live from the battlefield," according to a Marine directive. Off-the-record interviews with soldiers and revealing details about combat missions are discouraged; leaving the unit itself is forbidden.
Reporters have filed stories about the prepared food, coed tents and troop departures. ABC News' Charles Gibson begins a live series today called "The New Commanders," profiling those who have taken up where Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf left off.
There are discussions about press freedom, too, and opinions from those journalists called "unilaterals" during the Gulf war who prefer to patrol the combat area on their own, working outside the military system.
"Stay off the press bus," veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges told Editor & Publisher magazine. The purpose behind Pentagon cooperation "is to bond, to feel part of a unit and to get the military good press."
Newsweek's Johnathan Alters calls the impending conflict "the mother of all propaganda wars."
Meanwhile, as journalists position themselves to cover war and the rumor of it, the military issued a tactful reminder: "As you will soon learn, we are all in a rapidly changing environment and it pays to be flexible."
Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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