Envying the embeddeds

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The embeddeds have added a new word to the warfare lexicon and they are making it a worthy title for the very hazardous profession of combat journalism. They are bringing us our fighting forces story of “Shock and Awe” in Iraq. And in the spirit of full disclosure, as a veteran of 38 years in the TV network news trenches, I am overwhelmed by envy and awe!

The fortuitous joining of the embeddeds with the latest extraordinary electronic video and audio equipment was but a frustrating dream when I climbed out of the TV trenches in the Middle East 10 years ago. Back then I thought we had pretty good gadgetry, with the satellites and lighter videotape field cameras and the advent of a computer connection from my Tel Aviv Bureau to the news desk in New York. But the quantum leap in broadcast technology since then has, indeed, filled me with envy! Satellite telephones! A satellite earth station in a suitcase! Night vision lenses! Awesome – just awesome!!! What I could have done with those tools back then!

The embeddeds have, in fact, brought a new dimension to combat journalism by bringing the war to the folks at home as it happens. We now are getting a new view of warfare that is unique and perhaps historic. It seems to me the embeddeds have brought broadcast journalism as close as possible to our combat troops in real time, sort of like an electronic Ernie Pyle, the combat correspondent who told the story of the infantryman in World War Two up close and personal and was killed in action. I guess we could call Pyle the original embedded.

Skeptics said that today’s embeddeds could not report objectively about troops with whom they were sharing the bonding dangers of combat. From what I’ve seen they have admirably stuck to reporting the factual situation they see within the bounds of not revealing any information that would endanger our troops – Geraldo Rivera excepted!!! The troops welcome the embeddeds because they know their story is being told back home as it is, even though they wonder why the embeddeds are voluntarily sharing the muck, misery and dangers of battle.

And finally I hope that our embedded Ernie Pyles show the folks back home what our 17-18- and 19-year-olds who make up most of our Army and Marine frontline troops are enduring. Maybe we’ll stop calling them “kids” with the appreciation that they are young adults fighting for their lives. We should learn to respect our older teenagers, not constantly criticize them. The embeddeds are showing us, when given responsibility, how terrific our teenagers really are. Great enough to be at risk in yet another war.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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