The following is the transcript of a panel discussion that took place on November 19, 2002 at News World's annual conference.
With military action looming in Iraq, and after a year of conflict in Afghanistan, a debate about the rights and responsibilities of journalists in conflict zones. How is the media's right to report squared with the requirements of national security? And do the authorities abuse this as an excuse to favor the journalists who toe the line?
Chair: Ronald Neil, C.B.E.
Panellists: Martin Howard, Director General, Corporate Communications, UK Ministry of Defence
Mark Damazer: Deputy Director, BBC News
Vladimir Pozner: TV Presenter and Journalism Professor
Ibrahim Helal: Editor-in-chief, Al Jazeera TV
Ian Glover James: Foreign Desk Editor, ITN
John Sweeney: Writer/Broadcaster
Ian Ritchie: Managing Director, APTN
"If God help us, we go to war, the reporting of our staff in Baghdad will be one part of a very complex tapestry. Placed in the appropriate context, it's of course right to be there and we should be gagging to be there in very large numbers and we are there in very large numbers and of course the Iraqis will threaten to throw us out or put us out for 24 hours and then bring us back the next day because it is a game, it is a dance - with the devil? I don't care; better to be there than not be there."Chris Cramer, CNNI
Ronald Neil: Good morning, everyone. Good to see you. Welcome to Dublin, welcome to News World 2002. It's good to see so many of you in the fair city. From my point of view, particularly good to see so many familiar faces from last year in Barcelona. I hope some of you have been home in the intervening few months. You may well ask why on earth is News World reduced to booking the same dreary old chairman two years on the trot. And the answer is I was free and rest assured that when I say free I'm talking both about availability and price. And so why Dublin? As you know, News World has always held its conferences in a city beginning with B. Berlin, Barcelona, and so this year we thought Baghdad and we got very few replies from the delegates to Baghdad so instead we've come to Dublin, to the home city of John Simpson in the sure and certain knowledge that he is unlikely to march across the city and liberate us all during the conference. Can I make one housekeeping point? You will notice that there are two platforms and two lecterns and two screens in the room and I welcome you to new, added-value News World. We are going to actually stage two sessions simultaneously so you get twice as much talking during the conference for your large conference fee. The serious point to make actually is that while we now, all of us, meet in Plenary Session, in other sessions a large screen will be drawn across the room and while the editorial sessions will always be held as it were at this end of the room, and at this platform, the technical sessions will be stages at the back, and this should answer, I think some of the concerns from Barcelona that the sessions were held too far apart in the hotel. Whatever sessions you are attending, I do hope that in return for your taking the time and making the effort to come to News World, we in turn give you an agenda of topics and discussions that make your trip across the Irish Sea truly worthwhile. So what is the theme of the week? It is certainly to debate what many see as a growing gulf and disconnect between the politician, television news, and an increasingly cynical television audience. Many of our viewers feel disenchanted, disengaged, and disenfranchised by our television news, and why is that? Why and where are we failing them? As we sit sandwiched between the politicians and their sophisticated spin and the viewers and their deepening cynicism, how much do we ourselves bear the responsibility and blame for being a messenger that is failing? Is our journalistic house in good order? In the world of politics, do we tell the story well or are we too much victims of sophisticated spin and stale thinking? In the world of big business, did we journalists fail to spot the fast-approaching financial scandals of the past year and end up playing catch-up? And in a world where there may well soon be a new and frightening war, how fit and able are we to report another conflict when the tight control and flow of information and propaganda is ever-more a battlefield weapon in its own right? And some believe that we the journalists have been hijacked by the military? IN other words, how well are we really serving our news viewers in our world? Could we do an awful lot better? These are some of the questions we'll be posing this week and we hope you will all come forward and answer them. Incidentally, we do want to hear from you but we do not want to hear from your mobile phones. Would you be good enough to switch them off while you're in the room? So, plenty of business in between the Guinness, but before all that debate and discussion we have with us this morning a distinguished guest to raise the curtain on News World 2002. He's an Irishman through-and-through, a son of Colarny and County Curry, brought up as a lad in County Limerick, a graduate of this city's university and now the most senior broadcaster in Ireland. So would you please welcome, to give this conference's opening address, the man who for the past 5 years has been the Director-General of RTE, Mr. Bob Collins.
"I'm reassured by what you say and will trust you for the duration of this seminar but no longer." Mark Damazer to Martin Howard
Bob Collins: Thank you, Ron.
This is the third city in which your conference is taking place that begins with a B, because in the Irish language, Dublin is Baliachklia, so consistency continues to be your guiding star. You come together at a time which is at the very least active in the world of journalism. We live in a time when as never before, objectivity is needed in our journalistic output. At a time when powers are engaging in a war which at this stage is in the main fought through the media and when the battle for understanding has been engaged. In these circumstances, in a world of conflicting interpretations, our audiences, our viewers and listeners and readers, need some certainty, some sense of the reliability of the news which they consume. It is a time when the very use of language itself is part of this process, this complex journey of understanding. Is it terrorism, is it a terrorist, is it a guerilla, is it a freedom fighter, it is killing, it is murder, is it assassination? Does "collateral damage" convey the truth of what happens? It is a time when there needs to be a plurality of voices and a plurality of interpretations, precisely so that we avoid falling into a sense of conditioned understanding. Public broadcasting has a particular role to play in this environment because of the obligations which it has, because of the responsibility which it has, but all broadcasting, all journalism, has a significant task to play. News and current affairs must remain central to the output of broadcasting, central to their awareness of their role and purpose, central to their schedules and not moveable feasts that can easily be marginalized, and central to their budgets in the way in which they compete for resources which are increasingly scarce and for which there is increasing competition. These are significant challenges. They are not easily resolved. In the intersection between commerce and good intention, good intention rarely wins. And there are issues too for journalism, not just in the context of the global environment but in the context of the changing media environment within which we work. Ron raised the question in his opening remarks as to whether journalism was in some way put behind the public's interest or did it inadequately presage the stories that we now are so familiar with in relation to big business. You will probably learn during your stay in Dublin that a number of tribunals of inquiry are taking place about various aspects of public life in Ireland. In each and every case, the starting point was journalism, either print or broadcast. In each and every case it was the diligence of a reporter, it was the imaginative pursuit of a story, it was the courageous decision to print or to broadcast that prompted the debate that ultimately gave rise to the kind of tribunals of inquiry that are now taking place and to the open exploration of how this particular community lives that that involves. That's a good thing, but that's more than a good thing, it's an essential part of the role of the media in the democratic life of any community. And journalism as a profession must have a regard to that role that it plays and must learn to live with the tyranny of the recurring deadline and the risk that from a profession it becomes a mere trade where anybody can produce any number of words to fit any situation. Journalism is at risk of being trivialized. We are at risk of seeing news as populism, news as patriotism, news as entertainment and the fundamental requirement is one of respect for the audience and respect for the readership. A recognition that consideration, judgement and reflection are as important as deadlines and that audiences can see through superficiality and that they want depth and commitment and knowledge in the presentation of their world to them. These issues have a particular resonance for those of us who live in small countries and as in this island, sharing a language with the neighboring island and it's important that there be a voice which is Irish, that there be a process of mediating the events of the world in a way that is different from that which is intended for a British or an American audience. That's not chauvinism nor is it isolationism, it's simply a recognition of the importance of community in everything we do and a recognition that all that we do must be situated in the life of the communities whom we address in our output. Hubert Butler was an Irish writer and in the 1960s in a work call The House of God he wrote the following words, "Journalists were probably never more perspicacious than they are today, but the extent and the variety of their assignments forced them to be predatory as well perceptive. For a moment or two they come incredibly close to the subject of their investigation but often it seems like the closeness of the pickpocket breathing down our necks at a race meeting. It is an intimacy that excluded affection. The result is that there is less mutual understanding though more mutual knowledge among neighbors than ever before." I think there is a real challenge to all of us who have anything to do with news, journalism, broadcasting, in those words written in the 1960s. What is needed more than ever now is understanding on the part of our audiences. What is less well served now than ever by the immediacy of deadlines, by the ever presence of news around us, is understanding. Information and knowledge and understanding are not the same things. They are closely related but the fundamental responsibility which we have is to recognize the need of our audiences to be allowed that access to the variety and depth and richness of information and to the varying interpretations to which they are entitled so that they can bring their understanding, they can form their judgments, and in so doing, that they can enrich the decision-making in the communities in which they live wherever they are. Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this morning and may I wish you an enjoyable visit to Dublin which is a challenge in November and I hope that your proceedings will be stimulating and fruitful. Thank you very much.
Neil: Many, many thanks for those words, which are much appreciated and we hope you might manage to stay for the first few moments of the first session. Many, many thanks from all of us. And so to our first session of this conference. As we meet in Dublin, it may well be that some 3000 miles away in Washington, America's military masters are about to set the clock running on the final countdown into war with Saddam. When it happens and how it happens of course is all a matter of conjecture. One thing is certain, it will hugely test and stretch you and your news teams as you strive day after day to tell your viewers the way it really is. So part of the lessons from the past year and the experience in Afghanistan are now pertinent to your news rooms preparing to cover an Iraq war - in particular in this session, the issue of censorship, of media management, and journalistic integrity. The journalist and the soldier belong to the same society - one informs it and the other defends it, but in a time of war there will always be a tension between them. The journalist will argue there is a right to know and a duty to inform the viewer. For the commander in the field it is the need to know and the duty not to inform the enemy, and when we are at war, can we and indeed must we remain journalistically impartial or should we become patriotic and flag-waving in support of our boys at the front? Well, we're going to try to look at all of these areas this morning under four separate headings. Shaping the information battlefield: as the military spin machines become ever more sophisticated, do journalists have to accept they are the messengers of distorted and misleading information for the sake of the military objective? Then we look at 24-hour satellite news. It has brought about the instant globalization of news and war, but also an immediate conduit to the other side. Because of its voracious, never to be satisfied appetite, has it diluted and damaged the skill of war reporting, and do correspondents get forced into talking up a story about which they don't know and they can't see? And then, we look at patriotism. American journalists have been accused of practicing self-censorship on stories that run against US policy, that certain questions cannot be asked for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and anti-American. Where lies the journalistic duty in wartime? Flag-waver or fact-finder? But first, our man in Baghdad. What journalistic price do television correspondents have to concede when reporting from Baghdad? When they accept the high level of self-censorship and journalistic restriction, do they merely become part of the voice of Saddam, part of the propaganda machine playing a one-sided message back to the West? This is how one television journalist sees it. "For the vanity of being seen to be there, we collude in Saddam's big lie," says freelance journalist John Sweeney. John is with us this morning in the hall and on the platform may I introduce Mark Damazer, Deputy Director of BBC News, Ian Glover James, Foreign Desk Editor of Independent Television News, Ian Ritchie, Managing Director of APTN, Vladimir Pozner, the Russian Television commentator, and Martin Howard, Director General of Corporate Communications at the British Ministry of Defense. Did I just transfer you to Independent Television News when I introduced you there? Did I introduce you as being from the BBC?
Mark Damazer: I think so.
Neil: Fine, I thought I maybe moved you.
Damazer: Well it may have happened overnight but I'm not aware of it.
Neil: Well let me start with John Sweeney. John, this quote of yours, "For the vanity of being seen to be there, we collude in Saddam's big lie." Are you quite serious about that as a charge?
John Sweeney: I'm completely serious about that. Let's listen to what Usama says, "As you kill, you will be killed. As you bomb, you will be bombed." The justification for that is a million Iraqi children have been killed by Western sanctions. That is completely untrue. A million children haven't died. Saddam bears the moral responsibility for the children that have died. Many of the children that have died, for example, they've died of cancers. Those cancers have not been caused by depleted uranium weapons dropped by the West but in the main by Saddam's use of chemical weapons. None of those things can be said in a true way from Baghdad because if you say it, you lose the equipment, you lose the satellite technology, so what my charge is that 20 years ago, 30 years ago before satellite technology existed, before you could report precisely from the spot, you were more able to tell the truth about a thoroughgoing evil dictatorship than you are today because what happens is that it looks as though it's true but it's not and so you have this abomination of this moronic money-shot, "Well, Trevor, what's the situation in Baghdad?" . . . . "Ah, it's, um, Iraqi public opinion, blah blah blah, blah blah blah."
Neil: So all these guys should pull out of Baghdad tomorrow?
Sweeney: No, that's the kind of thing that somebody like you might say. We've got to really assess how honest and how truthful anybody reporting live from Baghdad can be and is it worth it and essentially we should put in huge speech marks anything that comes from Baghdad because at the moment the price of reporting live two ways from Baghdad is an abdication of journalism.
Neil: Mark Damazer, the charge is that you're dancing with the devil. Do you accept that?
Damazer: Well I don't really. John did a wonderful documentary about the extent to which Saddam had caused the suffering of his own people and he did that without being officially credited by Saddam Hussein and the piece was broadcast and it serves only to underline the fact that the man or woman in Baghdad is but one part of a rather large jigsaw and the viewer's total understanding of the story is not dependent, even to a considerable extent, on the fact that you may have somebody in Baghdad at the moment. There are many other pieces that we do about the situation in Iraq which provide an assessment of what Saddam Hussein is up to, which lead most people who watch our programs to the view, hardly uncontroversial, no it should be the other way around, I mean rather straightforward, that Saddam Hussein is not a pleasant man, who is doing bad things, and the fact that you've got somebody in Baghdad who is part, and only a part of the total reporting experience, doesn't seem to me to end up misleading the public as to what kind of regime Saddam Hussein is running.
Neil: Ian Glover James, do you accept that you're dancing with the devil and that by having to operate under those restrictions in Baghdad you're actually colluding with Saddam?
Ian Glover James: No, I don't. I mean I share quite a lot of John Sweeney's analysis but not the conclusion. I think the key to this is the use of the correspondent in Baghdad. If you tried, and I mean any television news organization would, if you tried to use that as a broad base in which to tell the entire news story, then yes you would get into difficulties. I think you have to recognize that you have to keep it very simple and you must report exactly what they can see and most importantly they must qualify what they see and tell the viewer what they can see and when doubts arise and we do that, the BBC does that and I think everybody does and there are frequently doubts that arise. Usually the example is when correspondents are shown damage from allied air strikes. One can never be certain how old it is, whether it's really related to the strike, etc., etc. There is, you know, a real need for the correspondent there to editorialize, to point out to the viewer precisely what they're seeing and if they're not sure what they're seeing, to say so. What's the corollary, what's the alternative? It's surely far worse. I think the key to it is proper news organization, proper use of the correspondent, and I would just point out a recent example and I think certainly CNN and possibly other news organizations are recently, temporarily evicted from Baghdad for reporting an anti-government demonstration. I think there is a way of doing it. It's not perfect but the alternatives are far worse.
Neil: Chris Cramer of CNN, your people were almost, I think, ejected from Baghdad quite recently. Why was that?
Chris Cramer: Because the administration took exception to our presence in northern Iraq and also, as Ian says, because of our reporting of a demonstration in Baghdad but you know I think this is a non-debate. This debate is 10 years old now. People have had bureaus in Baghdad for the last 12 years. The notion that we parachute a few bright people in for a few weeks is just historically inaccurate and there's also a sort of arrogance - this is a part of a jigsaw. If you want to put this jigsaw on the table then play the part. If you don't, get out and do it from London and get Reuters or AP to do it, as well they will do it. But this is a very old debate. No one is suggesting that the journalistic analysis and journalistic performance on an hour to hour, day to day basis out of Baghdad or for that matter out of Havana or out of Tripoli is perfect. What we're saying is it's better to be there than not to be there. One of John's phrases is the speech marks. I like that notion of course and this notion is a 10-year debate as well. If God help us, we go to war, the reporting of our staff in Baghdad will be one part of a very complex tapestry. Placed in the appropriate context, it's of course right to be there and we should be gagging to be there in very large numbers and we are there in very large numbers and of course the Iraqis will threaten to throw us out or put us out for 24 hours and then bring us back the next day because it is a game, it is a dance - with the devil? I don't care; better to be there than not be there.
Neil: Jacky Rowland, you were thrown out of Belgrade. Do you accept that when you're in that kind of situation, you're practicing self-censorship?
Jacky Rowland: I would say that any journalist who finds themselves either in Belgrade or Baghdad are trudging a very fine line. On the one hand you want to stay in because if you get thrown out then you can't add anything but on the other hand you want to try to tell your viewers as much as possible so inevitably an element of self-censorship or at least mincing your words, minding very much what you say, does play a part. With relation to what Ian Glover James just said about the need for the journalist to interpret what they see, and that in a way was what got me in trouble, and you partly are asked to interpret by the presenter back in London who will ask you what you've seen and then ask you what it means and you are asked a question, for example how old the bomb damage is. In my case, did you see any signs of weapons? Could they have moved the weapons in the interim? And it was that kind of speculation which got me thrown out, so you're not even safe there, either. Finally, I'm picking up from what Chris Cramer just said, I would agree that when you're covering any kind of conflict it's like a broken mirror, there are fragments of mirror wherever you are. There's a fragment in Baghdad, there's a fragment in Washington, Moscow, in my case during the Yugoslav conflict there was a fragment in Brussels, and I would point out that any journalist reporting from Brussels was to a certain extent subject to the same kind of constraints under which we were working in Belgrade. If you want the information, if you want the information, you to an extent toe the line and I think that if we look back a few years and if we were to review the coverage that we did of the Yugoslav conflict from Belgrade and from Brussels at that time, I think maybe you would question the extent to which maybe reporters in Brussels were also dancing with their respective devil.
Neil: Vladimir Pozner, do you accept that, do you accept that there is self-censorship and that you simply have to, in part, go along with what the regime may allow?
Vladimir Pozner: Yes I do. I don't think there's any choice in the matter if you want to keep working. When you asked about pulling people out of Baghdad, I think back to the days of the Soviet Union when journalists were severely censored by the government and you could not send material out without sending material through the Soviet authorities and yet there were huge bureaus and there were correspondents everywhere and no one thought of pulling it out. I mean clearly they have to be careful because otherwise a bureau might be shut down and some would and journalists could be thrown out and some were. You play a very careful game, you try to get the information out and I think it's only if you come to the conclusion that you have no possibility to do that whatsoever that you are simply stymied in trying to get any information out then you say goodbye and you leave. Then there is the other side of the equation which is you may be getting out the information but your side may not like that information and that happened during the first Gulf War. I know an American journalist who went behind the lines, ignored the military, got the information back to NBC and was fired and blacklisted because they didn't like what he was sending back, which was information that not all bombs are smart and as a result children also die. So you're dancing a very complicated dance especially in a conflict because you are supposed to be a patriot in your information delivery which I don't know how you do but you're expected to do that so I think you're dancing with many devils as a matter of fact.
Neil: Ian Ritchie of APTN, you have many customers here in the hall. Now you send pictures back from Baghdad more often that not I think without commentary. How do your customers know the providence of what you're sending and how do you know whether it's honest material or a staged event?
Ian Ritchie: Well, it really depends on what we're providing. If there's a script that we're sending out with the material it makes clear how it's being shot, where it's being shot and that's prepared in London, so I think as well that most of our customers know that if we put it out on our global distribution wire, that we only put it out if we're as certain as we can be about the providence of that material. If I could, Ron, just make a few points about the access issue because I think that's very important, certainly for us. When you've got 400 clients, the pressure to be in a particular place is maybe even stronger to stay. For example we have a satellite truck. Where is it? It's in the middle of the Ministry of Information compound. Did we have to get permits and visas for it to be there? Yes. Is there always a possibility of that being thrown out? Yes of course there is. As Chris was saying, if you've had a bureau there for some years and we have a number of Iraqi staff who are on our bureau as well as those who have come in from overseas, there's an even greater pressure to make sure that you're there. I think it is as we said earlier a difficult line to draw but I think it's essential that we're there and I think certainly from our point of view we want to make sure as far as we can that we stay there. Agencies as well have a usual copout because it's a broadcast at the end of the day that makes clear what they're going to put on the screen. We merely provide these numbers of choices for the broadcaster but I think that pressure is there and it's important that we do say that.
Neil: Omar Bec, you're head of newsgathering at Al Jazeera. When you operate from Baghdad, do you enjoy greater freedom of movement, are you more at liberty to report what you see than Western television companies?
Omar Bec: I don't think so at all. Just to name a few examples, only like two weeks ago we sent a reporter in, our roving reporter in from South Africa so that he can go to the north and we did all the legitimate framework of applications, whathaveyou, and he has been, still in Baghdad, waiting and waiting to enter the north so eventually we pulled the plug, we said no, we're not going to do this anymore, we're not going to wait to share the same restrictions as anybody else with regards to movement, with regards to access, with regards to who we can put on the ground We have to be there just as Mr. Cramer said, we have to be there in force and unfortunately just because we are an Arab TV station doesn't give us the legitimate right to be anywhere, anytime. We still have to go through the legal processes like anybody else and unfortunately we do share the same restrictions as any other TV station.
Neil: Mark Damazer, when you are broadcasting from a place like Baghdad, how do you handle the issue of health warnings to the viewers, how do you alert the viewers to the conditions under which you're showing them these pictures?
Damazer: Well I think that's in a way the most interesting area. I'm in little doubt that we should be there and will continue to be there and only under the most extreme circumstances would we voluntary put out. One other point that we've not made about that is you want to be there when the story changes and if you're not there it's rather difficult to parachute yourself in in a hurry so if either media restrictions change or the story changes it's rather nicer to be there than not to be there. Putting that to the side, I think there is a danger that from time to time we simply assume that the audience knows that the conditions under which we're operating are extremely restricted. We do frequently, very frequently point it out in the introduction to reports or two-way pieces that the correspondent is not free to answer all the questions and that there are restrictions. It may be that the industry as a whole ought to be slightly more explicit and slightly less embarrassed about repetition than we currently are.
Neil: Thank you Mark. Let me just ask Richard Tait, the former editor-in-chief of ITN, isn't the risk here that your government health warning becomes, sort of your warning to the viewer becomes so strong that you actually discredit the journalism that's coming out of there?
Richard Tait: Yes, there is a danger of that and indeed certainly in the last Gulf War and in the conflict in Kosovo there was pressure from the government on the British broadcasters to toughen up the health warnings. I think there's a very important balance there. I agree absolutely with what Mark is saying that the viewer doesn't necessarily know the operational circumstances which the correspondent is working but you do have to be careful you don't put a health warning up that is basically saying in code to the viewer don't believe what this man or woman is saying. I think we send experienced people into these areas, it's a dangerous and difficult job, and I think we have to balance informing the audience about the restrictions with giving them the support that they know that if they do file a story the viewer will say that I understand the restrictions but I also understand what I'm being told.
Neil: Robert Fox, a very dangerous job as Richard says. You believe that Baghdad is going to be an even more dangerous place this time than it was in the Gulf War?
Fox: I think potentially it could be very dangerous if the worthy Iraqis, and the present chief of staff is known to be an expert at this kind of warfare, decide to fight urban warfare. They've been digging the tanks in around Tikrit and Baghdad. That's going to be a very hostile environment for the reporter to work in, and also there is the problem not only of biological and chemical weapons but also severe toxins from collateral damage from bombing.
Neil: Mark Damazer, where is the point at which you decide that for reasons either of journalistic compromise or safety, you can no longer be in a place like Baghdad.
Damazer: The safety issue is more likely to come into play than the editorial one. There may well be circumstances where in the end for whatever reason either because of the conditions that the Iraqis wish to impose or because of the way that the story develops that you editorially decide to cut out but frankly I think it's extremely far fetched and frankly I can't see it. What's much more likely to happen is what happened to Jacky or what's happened to CNN in Baghdad where you do something that you think is journalistically important or credible for your audience and you find that the Iraqi authorities decide to chuck you out which in a way is testament to the fact that you can do decent journalism there and try and inform your audience as best you can and take the consequences. On the safety issue it's up to the correspondent in the field who has the field craft and who has the experience and who has the judgment to inform the desk back in London as to the danger of a particular moment and I think it would be extremely unlikely that a correspondent with any kind of significant experience on the ground who said that this particular battle situation or this particular moment in a particular bureau is unsafe that we would impose on them a need to continue. I think that we would pull out.
Neil: Okay let's move on to our second issue, Shaping the Information Battlefield and this delicious quote from Churchill, "In wartime, truth is so precious it should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." As the military machines become even more sophisticated, do journalists have to accept that sometimes they are the messengers of sometimes distorted and misleading information for the sake of the military objective and do they accept that they were doing that in Afghanistan in what many commentators have labeled the most secret war in history. Veteran American television anchor Dan Rather says that there has never been a war where information has been so limited. In this interview with the BBC's News Night in May of this year, he calls it the "fact vacuum."
Replay of Dan Rather: It is in direct variance with what the Pentagon's stated policy is. The Pentagon's stated policy is maximum access and maximum access consistent with national security. To a very large extent, I'm very sorry to say, there is a belief that the public doesn't need to know. Limiting access, limiting information to cover the backsides of the person who is in charge of the war is extremely dangerous and cannot and should not be accepted. Now I'm sorry to say that up to and including the moment of this interview that overwhelmingly it has been accepted by the American people and the current administration revels in that, they relish that and they take refuge in that. In both the political and military leadership of the current war effort, that those who control the images will control public opinion. They realize what an entertainment-oriented society ours has become, therefore in one way of looking at it, it is quite natural that they would say to themselves, "Hey, we've had the Hollywoodization of news, we've had the Hollywoodization of almost everything else in society, why not the Hollywoodization of the war?" and once it was said quietly but it's Bush who is thinking it and I hope this doesn't go any further. It's gone too far already. I am appalled by it. I do think it's an outrage. This is a personal opinion.
Neil: Chuck Lustic, director of foreign news with ABC in America, do you agree with Dan Rather there?
Chuck Lustic: I think Dan makes a great point and I agree with almost everything he says. I think we, especially our Washington bureau chiefs, fight a battle every day with the Pentagon in terms of access. It's a battle that is well-fought. We haven't had many victories but we continue to fight it. We're beginning to see some change as we get into this new Gulf campaign where the Pentagon is reaching out just a little bit more in terms of giving us at least a feeling that we might have some access during this new campaign.
Neil: I'm told, Chuck, that Rumsfeld has publicly warned Pentagon staffers about discussing military operations with the media and this quote: "Those who do so will be breaking federal law and criminal law and should be in jail" and I gather that Pentagon correspondents say their usual sources once highly forthcoming are now extremely reticent. That's what you're experiencing?
Lustic: I'm not sure that's the case. John McQuaffy, who's our national security correspondent, continues to have good sources inside the Pentagon and continues to break stories inside the Pentagon so although some people may have taken Rumsfeld's message to heart I think others continue to talk to the press.
Neil: Chris, while we're here, do you agree with what Dan Rather was saying?
Cramer: To a point. I mean I think this is very profound debate and it's a really important debate for this conference and I think people here ought to sort of pinch themselves and ask themselves their own reality check. This is not just an American situation. The United States is still profoundly traumatized by the events of September 11. You have to live there, not visit the place; you have to live there to understand that. You have to walk up and down my street in Atlanta and see that every single household still has its Stars and Stripes at the bottom of the driveway except mine, which has the Union flag which puzzles one or two of my neighbors but you have to live there to understand the real sense of trauma and outrage 14 and 15 months on, so consider that context. Consider also the context of whatever society you live in here and whatever particular conflict you have particular experience of covering as broadcasters. There was a period which was a very long time after September 11 when it took a very courageous journalist to ask questions. A very courageous journalist, not just late-night chat shows but journalism, if you like, was traumatized itself and it's in that context that this debate has to happen. I think Dan is a very thoughtful and very veteran correspondent and asks some very serious questions but there isn't a textbook for any of this. I think the US media is prodding our way back at the administration in a way it hasn't in the last few months. It's prodding and it's scratching and those people who confuse patriotism with jingoism are now understanding where their confusion lay. It is possible to be a patriot and still be a journalist. One more time, you can be patriotic and you can be a journalist. That view was suspended for a few months after September the 11th. It was either/or.
Neil: Mark Damazer, was it also suspended outside of America? Taking the UK example, Ian and Mark, was it suspended in the UK?
Damazer: Well not to the same extent because the Twin Towers aren't in London. They're in New York. I mean, I'm as it were mindful of what Chris says about needing to live there but I think even after September 11th the [inaudible] was a little bit more subtle in America than some of the cartoon versions that were deployed elsewhere. I mean I vividly remember an extremely veteran BBC correspondent, Paul Reynolds, going absolutely insane with frustration at being bombarded by requests from presenters and producers of programs in London who automatically assumed that the Americans were dying for revenge and that every 24 hours that passed after September 11th in which bombs were not being unleashed against some population somewhere was clearly a massive problem for the American administration and it was not so. And here you have to put the Dan Rather clip there which was a wonderful piece done by NewsNight in some kind of context. I think there was a degree of penitential catharsis going on there because Dan Rather had I think felt rather sorry about what he'd done immediately afterwards. I make no judgment on that because the profound shock which he experienced in the way that Chris describes was something that British journalists have not yet had to go through and I think it's presumptuous to say that we'll definitely get it right in every instance. On the other hand, because it wasn't in the United States and because, I think, there is a slightly different tradition and expectation of what British broadcasters will do and the language they will deploy, there was a more detached and dispassionate tone in much of the journalism that took place immediately after September the 11th. I don't make a huge moral fuss and cry of virtue about it. I think it may have been circumstance and it may have been tradition and we haven't been properly tested in the way that the Americans were after September the 11th and we should be mindful of that.
Neil: Thank you, Mark. Martin Howard, Director General of Communications at the British Ministry of Defense, can I quote our correspondent, military correspondent for the Washington Post, who argues that "a whole generation of military officers have grown up believing that the media is the problem if not the enemy." Isn't that true of all military people at a time of war?
Martin Howard: I think that would have been true 10 years ago, certainly true 20 years ago. I think it's not so true now. I spend a lot of my time visiting staff colleges and explaining to senior officers and junior officers what the media is like, how you need to engage with them and the fact that they are an essential part of the environment in which they are going to have to carry out military operations. It's an interesting point, which I make frequently, that since the end of the Gulf War we tend to get involved in wars of choice rather than wars of national survival and under those circumstances it's absolutely vital that you have the public behind you and where the public get their information from is from the media, largely, and what I've been trying to inculcate amongst military officers is that part of their duties is a duty to explain and in general I get a pretty positive response. There are always going to be some who are still very suspicious of the media and there are some when things get really violent, when we're going through major military operations where perhaps they might revert to what some have called 'tight in the [inaudible]' but I think that happens less and less.
Neil: Another quote from Phillip Knightley whom most of you will know as author of Tracking the History of Journalism During Wartime. He said of the war in Afghanistan, "This has been the most secret war in history. There were things being done in our name and we didn't know about it. Even the governments of developed Western democracies have decided that post-September 11th, informing the public is a dispensable luxury." Is that, again, what we're going to be looking at in Iraq?
Howard: Well, I might just comment on that because I've heard that quote and it's an interesting one and I can speak from the Ministry of Defense and the military activity that we took part in Afghanistan and I really don't recognize what Phillip's getting at there. I mean if you look at the nature of our military activity in early October when action started in Afghanistan, there were essentially three components to it. One was Special Forces activity and for reasons of operational security we just don't talk about that and I think that's generally accepted. It's not liked but it's generally accepted by the media. The second was the firing of cruise missiles from nuclear submarines. Well, once that's happened a coupled of times there isn't a huge lot you can say. It's happened once, it's happened twice, and again there are security considerations. The third was a Royal Air Force job in providing air-to-air refueling, reconnaissance, and so forth and we invited journalists in, we made maximum exposure of that but again the number of times you can show an aircraft being refueled is limited. When it moved into a different phase when we had two sets of ground operations in Afghanistan, one was part of ISAF, based around Kabul, and one around Baghram was part of the Royal Marines deployment on what we called Operation [inaudible]. We actually, I thought we did a full scale media operation, what we call media operation. We invited journalists along, we had media people there. I have to say, and I think we've had more [inaudible] in the past, that certainly how it was handled with Marines wasn't handled as good as it could have been. We learned lots of lessons from that but we didn't go out of our way to be secretive and if we moved down the military road in Iraq, I wouldn't intend to go down that road either. I go back to what I said about a duty to explain.
Neil: The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said in London last week, "This will be a new type of war fought in a different way by different means." Can you explain to me what that means?
Howard: Well I think that that's a general sobriquet which can be applied to the war on terror as a whole and President Bush has said similar things and indeed Jeff Hoon says similar things, that when you're dealing with-and I'm talking specifically here about the war on terror rather than necessarily on operations to attack Iraq-when you're dealing with groups rather than states and ideas and even individuals rather than sort of large groups of armies, then how you deal with that is different than if you were dealing with a more conventional military operation. Military activity is part of it but it's only one part of it. There are other parts. Law enforcement, diplomacy, even aid, and there's all sorts of components to that kind of operation. I think that's what the Prime Minister was getting at when he was talking about a different kind of war with, fought by different means.
Neil: Let me just put that to Robert Fox. A different kind of war, Robert, fought by different means. What does that mean?
Robert Fox: I think this has been around for a long time, but Tony Blair has just caught up with it. This is called post-modern war, where time as well as space bend, that wars go on for a hell of a long time as we discover. Look at Israel-Palestine. They go off and they go on and they happen in very different media and I think that's what both sides of the question that you've posed find it very difficult to come to terms with. We should remind ourselves of Admiral Chang who famously said in the Second World War, "You should keep journalists out of the battlefield altogether and just tell 'em when it's all over who won."
Neil: You go along with that, Martin Howard?
Howard: No, I don't think I do.
Neil: Let me then ask you, Martin, about something called information operations. As I understand it, this is a military strategy that groups together the traditional military PR function with experts from military deception and psychological operations so that those whose job has traditionally been to deal, as it were, truthfully with the media now find they're working hand in glove with those who's job it is to support battlefield operations. This seems to me a much greater level of control of the message as part of a battlefield weapon. Can you just tell us a little bit about that?
Howard: Yeah well, it would be if it were true, but it's not and Robert knows this because I've talked to him about it and talked to many journalists. I have to talk a little bit about terminology here. "Information operations" is used by all sorts of people to mean different things. In the British military doctrine it has a very specific meaning. It does mean a bringing together of those actually quite ancient and traditional military arts of deception, psychological operations, and so on and so forth. Those things have gone on over decades, centuries. You only have to think back to General Patton and his phantom army in southeast England just before D-Day, a classic exercise in military deception, and that goes on and that will continue to go on. Handling the media is a completely separate activity in the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces. I make the point and I go on at considerable length within the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces to say that what we call media operations, if you like, sorry to use a technical term but that's what we call it, is separate from information operations. It's not subordinate to information operations; it's not carried out by the same practitioners as those who carry out information operations. Clearly I know, and I have contact with those who carry out information operations and they know me, but there is a very strong Chinese wall, I'd say more than that, actually, between those who carry out information operations and those who carry out media operations. I invited Paul Adams, who's the BBC TV defense correspondent, to come and visit our Crisis Management Center in London some months ago and he asked the question "Would you, you know, actually lie to the media for strategic reasons?" and I said "No, we wouldn't" and he was quite surprised at that. He said he would even understand why we would do it, but I said no, it's a very strong principle. Again, when I go to staff colleges I say this over and over again, that you never lie and the reason you don't do it is because, yes you may gain some short-term tactical strategic advantage but your credibility when you are inevitably found out by the media is destroyed for years and we don't do it.
Neil: The notion, Robert Fox, of media being part of the battlefield with information being the weapon - you believe that media is being hijacked here
Fox: No, I don't necessarily think of it as being hijacked and I take Martin's point that in British military doctrine and in most NATO military doctrine, there is a very firm firewall between media ops and info ops. It is not necessarily so with other armies including neutral armies, perhaps to neutral nations, particularly in various parts of the world so one has to be aware of it. The other factor, though is that any commander nowadays, if it didn't happen before, if you see his diagram for his order of battle, that is what resources he's got, it's bound to have media ops and information ops. This is relatively new in the way that we had to relearn in British terms, sorry to be a little parochial about it, particularly as a result of or during the Falklands Campaign where it almost had been left out. I must say at that time the Vietnam view that the media had been the true enemy that had defeated American efforts was very very strong, but it is quite a sophisticated relationship now. It's not black or white and I would enjoin anybody to read the very short pamphlet written by Sir General Hugh Beach on media military operations in the Falklands and there's one key word in that and it is the bargain. Any conflict, and I've done about a dozen including crime wars, that I've covered, is completely different. You think there are familiar parts of the landscape, that's true, but the dynamic is entirely different and I think that the relationship has to be relearned every time.
Neil: Martin Howard, as I understand it, if the Iraq war happened, the US and the allies would operate a media center at Doha in Qatar. Is that right?
Howard: Well, I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself. We haven't quite decided to go to war yet. I think what would happen is if, in any military conflict and let's generalize it rather than say, let's talk about Iraq, there will be some several centers of gravity which will be largely selected by the media. The media will decide where the story is.
Neil: Will they?
Howard: Mm, I think so, to a large extent.
Neil: You won't decide where your media?
Howard: Well, I mean, there's a dilemma here, isn't there? You need a commander in the field; you need to locate him somewhere. He needs to be there, he needs to have his media advisors and the media will probably be there as well but if there's an operation going on elsewhere. Let's take, again, a real-life example of Kosovo, where for a large part of the campaign, when it was an air campaign, one of the strong centers of gravity was actually in Italy at [inaudible] where the aircraft were flying from. When land forces go into ground, the center of gravity became there and at the back of people's minds always there was a center of gravity in London and those things have to be dealt with and so my job if we get into a conflict is to ensure that we have the right trained people at each of those points.
Neil: Ian Glover James, you've had experience of that in the past. How controlled of an environment is that in terms of supply of video, copied video, the briefing. It's presumably a very controlled environment. Are you comfortable in that environment?
James: Well, it's a growth area that's one of the features of recent conflicts of British engagements as being the use of military cameramen to shoot video and I think it's an issue that all broadcasters have had to have a good long think about, and I think that BBC and Skynews and ourselves, we have to label it very clearly, make it clear that it's being shot by a military cameraman. I think we have to sort of run a rough test. Could we have been there, could we have shot that? Why weren't we? We have to tell our viewers precisely . . . in fact even to be fair, would we have wanted our cameraman to be there during that? I can think of some occasions during that operation in Baghram and earlier in Sierra Leone where the military cameraman was shooting in quite dangerous circumstances. I think this falls back into that area of making absolutely clear to your viewer what they're seeing and explaining that obviously cockpit video is self-explanatory to a large extent, but where you're getting increasingly sophisticated, increasingly skilled military cameramen, you need to be very very careful how you use it and how you label it.
Neil: Martin Bell, you call it soldier vision, what do you mean by that?
Martin Bell: I mean it's footage you get from a camera on a uniformed soldier and you often don't know the provenance and you often don't know quite why you're getting it. It's used in the propaganda war which in all military conflicts goes on beside the clash of arms. I just think it's a dangerous way to go. I think what we're talking about here is getting some access consistent with reasonable operation security. It's important to have that and I'm afraid that we may be here on the verge of an unwitnessed war and I'm sure that Martin will tell us that that's not going to be the case and I hope he's right.
Neil: Hannah Owen-[inaudible], you're just let me say for a moment the managing director of Middle East Broadcasting.
Hannah: Yeah, I think one point that is important to bring down here is that in our part of the world, which is in the Middle East, when the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. There are a lot of people down there who are not part of what is happening as far as the war, and as the war is being fought on television, the important line is not strategies where, as you say, the media is carrying strategies but who are the people who are directly under fire and who is your audience? Are you only informing your audience in the States or America or in Europe or in Australia or the audience who are under fire? There are two sides of this story, I think, which should be carefully looked into when you draw this line between what the strategies are, what the politicians want, and what the media is covering. Is your decision of covering affecting the people under fire? Not only the troops but the people who are going to be affected.
Neil: Let me just come around to Chris, because he wants to, just be patient for a second, thanks. Sorry, that was a slow walk.
Cramer: You know, the last few minutes is really quite worrying for me. We should, as journalists we should be very wary of the bargain, Mr. Fox's phrase. We should be very wary of the psychobabble of the last 5 or 10 minutes. We don't want to get this close to the boys' toys, general jumbo, intricacies of line drawing because that's where the danger is. We had a very interesting exercise at CNN last week where we actually got some senior managers in who where kind of in the control room you know in the first Gulf War and pointing out some of the issues and dilemmas and hourly and in fact minute-to-minute decision making that they were engaged in. And there were two or three really quite fascinating insights. You know, we didn't give the weather forecast in Baghdad last time round, forgetting that they could look out the window and tell what the weather was without our help. I remember during the Falklands War we had great arguments with the censors because - we've all got very short memories. There were censors in the BBC cutting rooms about submarine's pictures, forgetting that it was possible probably to buy Jane's Fighting Ships in Argentina. We need to pinch ourselves and remember all these little things that we agonized about last time round, I don't want to know about the intricacies of the military machine. I want to know about journalism and that's what we should be talking about today. How we actually break away from the so called bargain because that's the important part of what we do. No bargains, gentlemen, no bargains.
Neil: Professor Ian Hargreaves; Ian is professor of journalism at Cardiff University.
Ian Hargreaves: I think the bit of the discussion which is being underplayed here is what the audience is saying about it. What the American audience was saying in the weeks and months after September the 11th was that they trusted the American government and the American military more than they trusted the American news media and the large problem that exists is that of the issue of public trust of the news media which is established or tested in periods of great extremity like war but which is constructed on a day by day basis. I think that the encouraging part of all of this is that the audience knows that it now has a much greater diversity of ways into the news than it used to have and that the most striking difference in war reporting to me in recent years is the availability of the kind of information that you can get on the internet or via multiple television news channels. I think that the rise of Al Jazeera has been hugely important. It's important for example, in Britain's ethnic minority communities, most of whom don't speak Arabic but who hugely value the presence of a voice which they take to be differently based than the voice of the BBC or the voice of ITN and that is important in their construction of a view of what is going on. Recalling the Falklands War when the BBC was criticized for making reference to Argentinean sources of news, well by the time of the Kosovo war, it was routine for a BBC news site to have a link to the Serbian information office, so I think that if we can recognize the complexity of the audience out there that we've got a better chance of building in the long haul the trust that we need in order not to have to the public arrive at an unwise conclusion that you can trust the government because you clearly can't trust the media.
Neil: Mark Damazer.
Damazer: A minor confession, I'm taking up from where Chris left off although I'm skeptical about whether CNN would eschew altogether running the cockpit video stuff although I know they'd label it carefully but I think that this time last year we did run too many 'boys' toys' pieces and we didn't do enough, for instance, on sentiment in Turkey or the Gulf about what was going on in Afghanistan and I think for awhile actually we got mildly intoxicated, I don't think to a sinful degree, but we got mildly intoxicated with which particular bomb and with which particular weapons the Americans could cut through the Taliban and I think it is a temptation, particularly when you don't have access to the center of the story on the battlefront for all the reasons that have been discussed here. If you go back to the beginning of the cockpit video saga, and it was I think the Gulf War in '91, I think everybody and not just the BBC was extremely mindful of labeling those videos and saying through pretty good reporters that we had in places like Tehran and elsewhere that you were only seeing a fragment of the story but the interesting and slightly disturbing thing was that the audience remembered that and in some places resented the extent to which we'd used it even though we had labeled carefully and I don't think this conundrum has been fully resolved because the power of those videos can overwhelm all the words around them which express the necessary degree of caution. I mean, on the military sourcing point, I'm reassured by what you say and will trust you for the duration of this seminar but no longer which is that you won't set out deliberately to mislead us and, point taken but by the same token, the military source whether it comes from Tehran, Qatar or elsewhere, is but one fragment of the total information picture and any journalist who is there is processing this information, editing programs back in London, needs to be aware that they've got not only a right but a duty to be rigorously skeptical about the information that they're receiving and test it against any number of other sources that they can find before they finally make an assessment of it's credibility and verisimilitude...
Neil: Vladimir; sorry, I just wanted to bring in Vladimir.
Yeah, well, I just want to backtrack a little bit there and say that when Dan Rather says that whoever controls the image controls public opinion, I think the point is very well taken and that ever since the Vietnam War, the powers-that-be whether it's in the United States or elsewhere have understood that and whenever they can control the image, they do control the image and certainly the military do that everywhere and the Gulf War is just one example and all the others that came afterwards whether it was a small war or a larger war. You cannot get the real information without going through the military and the military will give you only what they think is necessary and if you try to sidestep them, you're in trouble and then you do go for a bargain and I think the audience gradually begins to understand that you are bargaining which is one of the reasons why they trust you less and less. Just recently what happened in Moscow with the hostage-taking-the journalists were trying to get the pictures through-they did get some pictures through, actually, showing things as they were, the result being that now a law has been passed, though it hasn't yet be signed by the president though I'm sure that he will sign it, banning certain kinds of reporting that, quote unquote, are "helpful to the terrorists" and anything you say might be helpful to the terrorists. It all depends on how you interpret it. It is a concerted effort in my opinion everywhere to limit honest reporting in areas of conflict and I believe that's one of the reasons why ultimately the trust in what we do on the part of the audience is sort of lower and lower because we do kind of play the game. There are very few journalists who are willing to stand up and say "This is simply not true. I'm being lied to, I'm being mislead." If you do that during a time of conflict, you're going to lose your job, you'll be attacked by your colleagues in media who will say that you're not a patriot, this that and the other, and then it goes further and further. I think it's an extremely serious situation.
Neil: Okay, I do want to move on. We will come back to the issue of patriotism in a little while but I want to move on and look at the impact of 24-hour satellite news during a war. And this quote, "24-hour-news dilutes the profession. Instead of being in the street finding out what's going on, you are chattering to a presenter down the line. It's puppetry. There is an inauthenticity about it." Martin do you really feel that?
Bell: Yeah, it's happened to me. I'm standing on a roof in Sarajevo and a NATO communication Naples is being fed into my ear. That's not journalism, it's puppetry, and too often what we see with the dominance of rolling news is the reporters are not down in the field off the rooftops where they should be. They're standing on rooftops exchanging speculation with each other at enormous expense which gives us no knowledge and no understanding of what's going on.
Neil: Jacky, the war correspondent as we know him as an objective independent person trying to find out what is going on is finished because of 24-hour news?
Rowland: I would say that's probably throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I agree to a large extent with what Martin says. I mean, 24-hour news is a problem because you have these outlets that have this huge appetite for news. The whole idea of live news is that we're not going to run pre-recorded interviews, you know it has to be live but the result of that is that at least one member of the team is what we now refer to as a dish monkey or if you happen to be female, the dish bitch, because you're up on the roof chained to this thing, metaphorically at least and you can't get off. I think the way to deal with that, because we have to face the reality of the fact that there is this continuous 24-hour news, is just that we deploy bigger teams now. You know, you will find yourself, you will be told, "You're dish monkey today." We just have more journalists so there will be one reporter or two reporters who will be going out to do the package, to get the footage, and to tell the story and you've got the other poor devil that's often me who is chained to the dish standing up on the roof. It just means more bodies.
Neil: John, you don't fancy the idea of being a dish monkey, do you?
Sweeney: Oh, I don't. I would hate that and no one's going to give me the job anyway but I would hate that because it is a bargain with the devil. I actually want to go back to what we were talking about a moment ago.
Neil: Now wait a minute. A bargain with the devil?
Sweeney: Right, well, because you're not reporting properly. You're not talking to the ordinary people who are being bombed, who don't like being bombed, who have lost their people. You're saying, "Well, the situation is blah blah blah." What's fantastic about it as far as the desk, as far as the office, is concerned is that the presenter back in London, let's call him Trevor for example, gets involved in the story and that's exciting for them and all suits like them because you're getting the bloke back in London or the woman back in London involved. It's nonsense and what's dreadful about it is the more time you spend showing a dish monkey or a, um, er, I'm not going to say Jacky's phrase, it's too difficult for me to say, but!
Neil: You should try inauthenticity
Sweeny: Um, dish bitch and inauthenticity. But, your problem is that you're not showing what ordinary people there think and therefore it looks modern, it looks 21st-century. The reality is, it's less good than what was happening 10 or 15 years ago.
Neil: Mark Damazer, what are you going to say?
Damazer: Well, I think John deserves to be teased now. I'm a great admirer of his work but I'm just writing down the list of places he wouldn't be if it weren't for 24-hour news or much else. I mean, he's not going to be in Baghdad so that when the bomb hits the bunker Jeremy Bone can't go and do the story, he's not going to be with the dish because he has reservations about it, some of which I share but nevertheless they're greatly overstated and knowing John and his work, he's most unlikely to be sitting there in Tehran or Qatar with the military doing the story so quite where will John end up being and what will we actually tell the public is the news from the Gulf War or wherever? I mean the more important variable that we've not talked about yet but I think Jacky's point about deployments and being careful to send enough people to cover a big story is the right one. The key variable is the quality of the correspondent and the ability to say I don't know and I can't answer that and I'm not prepared to predict is a rather large element in the equation and you have correspondents either because they've been in the region or the city before and have some expertise or because they've read widely or because they're experienced or savvy or have talked to people who are going to be able to make sense of the very large number of two-ways that they will be asked to do and will inform the public and the audience much of the time, and you will have others who will be a great deal less fluent and less good at doing it who may be encouraged by poor presenters and poor producers back in London to speculate to much, to assert too strongly in order to feel that they're contributing something important to the debate when they've got nothing to say. In the end it comes down to judgment and quality and editing, all of which are huge variables because I've seen these things done extraordinarily well and I've seen these things done, frankly, extraordinarily badly.
Neil: But isn't the risk, Richard Tait, if you're feeding 5 and 6 times an hour, that you're going to talk the story up, you're going to exaggerate it
Tait: Well I think there is that danger, I think all the main news organizations have approached in the same way that you have to have the resources to be going live but also the resources to do original journalism. I think what has slightly disappeared from this discussion is original journalism. We don't have to cover a war simply by being in the capital cities and the briefing centers of the combatants. We can cover the war though it's dangerous and it depends on the war by going to report it and some of the best reporting in Afghanistan was not done in the briefing centers, was not done in the camp, it was actually done by freelancers and by teams from the main news organizations and newspapers, taking the risk of getting in 4x4s and going to find the war. Martin mentioned the fact that we don't cover Special Forces. Well, actually the best war footage I saw of the Afghan war was of the British Special Forces at Mazar which was shot by an Afghan freelance, which was then run on Channel 4 news and Reuters and RT and all around the world would never have been agreed by the head of Special Forces in a million years as a facility. [It] was actually an extremely important story which was done by good old fashioned journalistic enterprise and one thing we have to discuss is how much enterprise is possible in the particular circumstances of each particular war. In the Falklands War it was impossible because on the carriers the military controls the communications. You couldn't go anywhere. In the Afghan war, it was different, it was a much wilder situation, it was much more possible to do enterprising reporting. One of the issues in the war in the Gulf is what is balance between what we've just talked about and people actually taking the chance of going into southern Iraq and coming in from the Turkish border and trying to report on the ground what's actually going on.
Neil: Do people in the audience share some of those reservations about 24-hour news as simply talking the story up, as simply, what is it, a satellite whatever? A what did you become? A satellite dish? Do people share those reservations that were expressed by some of the correspondents about 24 hour news? "Puppetry," Martin Bell says. You're on your own. Let me get the mike on.
Hannah: Of course it is. There is so much information being bombarded to everybody and the pressure which journalists are on is one. There are so many sources is two, there are so many sources in more than languages is three, the people, they don't know what they're watching and what they're looking at is [another] thing, but the most important thing, I think, is that it is set. There is nothing I can do about it. Quality journalism is what we are arguing today but the fact that it is there, that you have to report on the minute, you have to update your information every minute and there are so many different sources in many languages is something that is becoming a horror story for a lot of viewers.
Neil: I'd just like to go on for a minute and talk about another form of new technology, the satellite telephone and you know, what are the pluses and perils of the satellite videophone. Adrienne van Heteren you're head of news gathering at the BBC. What are the risks and dangers balanced against the pluses of the satellite videophone?
Adrienne van Heteren: I think the pluses are very clear in that it gives us the potential to be in places where we would not otherwise be able to reach, to be able to get to mountainous areas very quickly, to be able to broadcast from there directly and particularly in Iraq you can see that that kind of technology will be able to be used to great effect there in terms of telling people what is going on. Of course there are risks with it that you can get again people who are putting themselves into dangers that they might not otherwise be putting themselves into because of that great possibility of being able to broadcast from a place and trying to get to places and trying to stay there and keep broadcasting in a relatively stationary position. There are also risks with it in the sense that what you're trying to do with a satellite telephone is to try to convey the real picture of what's going on but you're limited in the range of territory that you can show in terms of the quality of what you can deliver. It's not the same as an original crafted package. It's like a lot of what we've been talking about this morning. It's not either/or. It's got to be both/and. Using a satellite telephone to be about to say "This is what's happening in northern Iraq" is not the same as a camera crew going off for several days, gathering an overall picture of what's going on and bringing that back. We've got to find ways of doing both and not let the technology say, "Well we've got that, let's just use that." We do other things too.
Neil: Does everybody think it's a great plus or are there other dangers and worries that you see attached to it?
Fox: There are very real, immediate, practical dangers which are going to emerge. You will identify yourself as a target by this kind of signaling. Just think of the number of people likely to be located by this means. The kind of technology that we're now seeing, I'm sorry, this is toys-for-boys game, Chris, but it is part of the spectrum of reporting. You've got to understand this, Chris, because you, the suit, could be putting your girl or bloke in the field in terrific danger. There are times when you're just going to have to be silent. Just to take Adrienne's point, the depth reporting is still such a tremendous component, considering all the difficulties that they've had with Baghdad. Look at Sam Kyle, his correspondent's report with covert filming. Absolutely brilliant and did give you a much broader picture than we've seen recently.
Neil: Thanks Robert. Chris?
Cramer: I won't respond to Robert because it's too tempting. I mean, yes he's right, there's a small risk. It's probably slightly less risky than 15 crew people with about 25 silver boxes moving in 16 vehicles across the desert to do a conventional satellite piece but it's a minor risk. The risk is that we might actually get to cover the world at a price we can all actually afford. That's the only risk I can see. Real risk. I think there's something very interesting about video phones and MRSats which is that what we've been talking about at conferences like this one for the last 10 years is about genuine militarization, genuinely getting into places that we couldn't before, and genuinely covering real time stories in a way that we want to, is here now, and I think what we're going to see and I hope Martin's right, I hope we don't go to war, but if that happens I think what you're going to see is people using laptops to do completed, high quality video packages without any minders, without anyone around them, and transmitting that stuff in virtually real time back to the head offices. That's new, that's exciting
Neil: Thank you Chris, thank you everyone. Let's move on to our final section in this session. We ask the question "Patriotic Reporter or Objective Journalist?" And this quote, "It seems not wholly ignoble for a journalist occasionally to give the benefit of the doubt to the cause of his own society when it is at war." That quote from Max Hastings, a former British war correspondent. And indeed it was referred to earlier in the UK during the Falklands War. One television journalist was accused by the patriotic press of being a traitor for referring to 'allied troops' rather than 'our boys.' And now even the most respected of American television journalists has been accused of practicing self-censorship in stories that run against US policy. That certain questions cannot be asked for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and anti-American. As Dan Rather told BBC's News Night:
Replay of Dan Rather: There was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented and in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here by the flaming tire [inaudible]. Now it's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions and to continue to bore in on the tough questions so often. And again I'm humbled to say I do not except myself from this criticism that patriotism [inaudible] will trample the very values that the country seeks to defend [Applause] and [in] a constitutional republic based on the principles of democracy such as ours, you simply cannot sustain warfare without the people at large understanding why we fight, how we fight and have a sense of accountability to the very top.
Neil: Can I start with you up - sorry
Replay of Dan Rather: Aside from the feeling of patriotism itself, it carries fear with the knowledge that we [inaudible] in this country as a whole [inaudible] felt and continue to feel this surge of patriotism within themselves and one finds oneself saying "I know the right questions but you know what, this is not exactly the right time to ask it."
Neil: Ok, sorry I interrupted there. Ian Hargreaves, can I come to you first. Where lies the journalistic duty in wartime? Flag waver or fact finder or a little bit of both? We'll get the microphone turned up and then we'll go in.
Hargreaves: Max Hastings is right that journalists cannot disconnect themselves from the society that they're in and that is going to inform the values that they work by. Indeed the whole structure of the idea of free and independent news media arises from those societies so the idea that journalists stand clear of that is absurd but it's also true I think, I think the Rather interview makes the point well, that journalists don't only operate within national boundaries. They certainly must never operate only within the metropolitan culture, the capital city culture within those societies, and it's very easy for them to do that. In the end I'm completely sure that the public wants journalists to be independent, to be inquiring, to ask the hard question at the hard time, even if they don't feel like it at that moment. Riding around on the London Tube yesterday with the main London newspaper running a headline about gas attacks on the Tube, you can't ignore the emotional power of that and the fear that is going on in people's minds about it. Chris talked about it vis-a-vis September the 11th but journalists should be skilled at getting clear of that, getting as far clear of that as you really can on the given day in the given situation. That's the job and if you're not up to doing that, in my view, you shouldn't be calling yourself a journalist.
Neil: Vladimir Pozner, you were very critical of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and you weren't allowed to broadcast for 6 months and I think you had all your travel rights revoked. High price for objectivity.
Pozner: Well, you're talking about a different kind of society that today basically no longer exists except in a few limited countries and that really doesn't surprise me when a society like that, if a journalist speaks out in a way that contradicts the policy, the journalist is really not even regarded as a journalist. In the Soviet Union, journalists were called Soldiers of the Ideology Front, so you know, a soldier gets his orders and he does what he is supposed to do. But when it happens in a democratic society, then you begin to wonder. For instance after September 11th, one of the questions that I would have asked was, well, still, who are these people who are willing to give up their lives? Why are they doing this? There has to be another side to this story except the horror of what happened but that was impossible to ask in America at the time. It was impossible to question anything but the, but to say that this evil, terrible thing is going on and that these people are evil to the roots of their soul and if you tried to ask that question you were considered anti-American and certainly not a patriot and if you're a journalist how can you not ask that question? It must come up and I think that that's pretty true anytime your country is involved, whether it's the September 23rd to 25th events in Moscow or the Falklands War. In the time of conflict it is extremely difficult first as a human being, first to speak out in a way that might be considered unpatriotic and second as a journalist because you don't know what's going to happen to you. I mean, you may lose your job very easily and I've seen that happen in democratic countries, forget the Soviet Union, or rather remember it, please, but in another sense. Therefore, I would say that there is less and less of a chance to be objective without the danger of your being call unpatriotic and whatever consequences follow and this is true, this is more and more true, and especially in this war against terrorism, quote unquote, if anyone tries to come up with any kind of argument not legitimizing but trying to explain what is going on in the Muslim world and why it's going on and why does hatred, for the so-called developed countries [develop] and where that comes from and are we, the developed countries, in any way responsible for what's going on there and shouldn't we think about that, you are immediately pilloried for bringing that up and I think that that's one of the things that people don't want to talk about.
Neil: Mark Damazer, final point.
Damazer: Well, I hope I'm not guilty of being a member of the metropolitan elite when I think I can say that those questions were asked. They may not have been asked in a pitch-perfect way, they may not have been asked in every program exactly with the depth and sophistication that you'd like but I think people were pretty quick on the uptake about the fact that this particular horrible, atrocious event had its causes and its origins as well and they needed examining. On the wider point about patriot and broadcaster, I mean the simple bromide is this, that if we don't regard our job as being to think out aloud and to help the nation think out aloud about the complexity of the events that are around them, I don't honestly think that we can get a license fee or we have any reason to exist at all. Under that level it's quite straightforward. If you look at the way some of the recent wars have panned out, though, I mean some of the very very largest questions have been unanswered. For the last 10 years we've been told as each conflict comes just as we're being told about this one that it's going to be potentially impossible, there will be huge numbers of bodies coming home in coffins, public opinion will be severely tested as to whether or not they will sustain a war effort being run by their government and actually over the last 10 years it's not turned out to be the case. The Gulf War in 1991 was over relatively quickly with relatively few casualties, Kosovo ditto, and we'll see what happens this time round. So if you want to go back to the case histories you have to go back quite a long way. It seems to me that a lot of this debate is still shadowed by Vietnam and the extent to which the American media did or didn't get the Americans out and in that debate too little is made of the extent to which the American media did not properly inform its public in the beginning of the military intervention about what problems were likely to be and didn't report truthfully on the ground about what was happening in Vietnam when American troops came up against the Viet Cong and going further back than that, Schwartkopf has apparently written that if cameras had been there on D-Day in Normandy, he fears that the war would not have been a sustainable effort because the American public opinion at home would have been repelled. I don't know but I take a rather more optimistic view. If there'd been several accurate years of reporting about what Hitler was about and what the war was about and that the war needed to be won, I rather think that the American public would have sustained horrendous casualties in Normandy and I rather think they would not have done in the Somme or in Passchendaele and there may have been a reason for that which is that the roots of that war would have been sufficiently tortured and the lack of a public opinion supporting it would have been sufficiently evident that actually, has there been a media there at the Somme, in Passchendaele, at Ypres, we might have got out of that war rather more quickly than we did and I think all of these are huge large questions but when it comes down to operating at the moment, it's actually not that complicated. There is a very big debate in which there are multiple opinions. We're an international broadcaster, we need to reflect the international debate as well the domestic debate and there is no other raison d'etre for us.
Neil: Mark, thank you, I'm afraid time has run out on us and the truth is of course, we've only touched on many of the subjects that came up in this first session but the next few days are all about fleshing out those themes in much greater detail. Just before I go on and tell you what's going to happen next, would you say thank you please to our team on the platform and our team down here?