What is Embedded Journalism? Meaning, definition, explanation


“Embedded journalism” is a form of war reporting in which journalists and the military work together to inform the public and not to reveal (military) secrets. The military controls and decides what is written about and what may be published.

What is Embedded Journalism? Meaning, definition, explanation

Embedded journalism is a term widely used during war or other military operations. The term itself is relatively new, having been used during the Iraq War (beginning in 2003). It can also be applied to other earlier war situations, but was used more frequently mainly during the Iraq War.

The journalist’s contract protects the military in such a way that anything written is censored, but also things you encounter while in country are censored. Examples of this can be classified weapons or anything else that can be considered classified. So you can’t write later about something classified that you saw while you were in the country. In this way, you will be very strictly controlled when publishing information. Proofreading and pre-censorship take place, of course. This means that the journalist in question is prohibited from filing a story via satellite, as this transmission could reveal the position of the armed forces. So it is a very limited kind of journalism, as it is always controlled by the military in question, and the ability to archive and report for several hours can be eliminated. What we are seeing is not the war in Iraq; what we are seeing are parts of the war in Iraq, ” Donald Rumsfeld said at the beginning of the Iraq war. This is very true because you are only allowed to see fragments of an action. Moreover, if it is precensored, the content is weaker.

This means that a particular news reporter or reporters are chosen to cover a particular event, a story – preferably in wartime situations. The result is more comprehensive news with different features than normal news features. Working with a story is made easier by its proximity to a particular region in the country, and if it is used under the right conditions, and by that is meant that the journalist in question is realistic, objective and, not least, consistent in gathering information, it can be a very truthful story.

The question then becomes, does the truth really matter? If the chance to write a story, with a slightly skewed view of the truth, is more important than a well-written truth? But covering an event in this way can also be very positive. Getting an inside look is always positive; it broadens the view and the senses. What is crucial is the refinement of the collected material. Different perspectives create different truths. With these words, morals & ethics are making their way into information and journalism. Even within these subjects, there are specific guidelines and rules that must be observed and, not least, adhered to in the work. Let’s take the work of a photographer as an example, his work is just as important as that of a journalist, but pictures speak for themselves. The image as a medium becomes stronger and the responsibility lies entirely with the photographer. The image must reflect a reality, and this reality can thus be that of someone else. Reality or truth? And whose truth? Being an embedded journalist and reporting only on the military leads to one-sided reporting. If you turn it around and assume that the journalist might be embedded in a family or even a school, the story might be quite different. Not as controlled and perhaps more objective. It’s a way to broaden your horizons. A step on the way to becoming more truthful.

That the concept of embedded journalism is well-known is partly because of its use during the Iraq war, but also because the U.S. media community was a little disappointed with the access they gained to different places in different war situations. According to Wikipedia, 775 journalists and photographers were embedded journalists in early 2003. These journalists and photographers, in turn, signed contracts that severely restricted their reporting. During this time, it was important to report in such a way as to gain some sort of elevated position and controlling role in the flow of information. The goal, of course, is to control all the information and direct it to your advantage. An example of this might be that you are asked not to show pictures of wounded soldiers from your own “side,” but only to show that there are casualties on the “other side.”

Information Warfare and Embedded Journalism

Part of embedded journalism is using information to take a superior position over the adversary.

Information warfare means waging war through information. Since the Vietnam War, governments and the media have used various methods to control and deal with the media. It is used as an example of the first war, when it was as important to win public opinion as it was on the battlefield. In the second half of the war, the focus was on exposing abuses by American soldiers against Vietnamese civilians. This obviously had a very negative effect on public opinion. The focus was on tighter control of the media so that they would then paint a positive picture of the situation, to finally make people feel that profit is everyone’s achievement. That we were all involved in the war and ultimately won.

This confirms in different ways how important the media is in different situations. Whether the media can control a war and vice versa is a very important question. For example, if you take advantageous pictures during a war situation, you gain the upper hand. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Another aspect of information warfare is the dissemination of media, in this case propaganda. It is a powerful tool to demoralize the enemy. It has a strong connection to psychology, in this case psychological warfare.

See also: What is WarTok?

Distance from the civilian

Although embedded journalists can do a faster and more efficient job by staying close to where all the activity is taking place, there is also the undoubted idea that the whole thing can make these journalists distance themselves from the civilian population, and thus have already achieved an effect standing on the situation itself. An example could be Iraq, where staying with the military makes one sympathetic to the invasion. This led to the alternative term “embedded journalists.”

That war situations create an us-and-them effect is a fact. Those who are in a war-torn country choose a location, and that includes the journalists who are there. It is an active choice and something you are also forced to make when you spend your life with the soldiers who are with you. In Iraq, for example, if you are a journalist, you pose exactly the same threat as the American forces, you are automatically on their side. There is no difference in that moment between a journalist and a soldier. It undeniably creates a sense of “us and them.”

What is truth? And whose truth is true? Embedded Journalism

Embedded journalism, the practice of placing journalists within and under the control of one side of the military during an armed conflict. Embedded reporters and photographers are assigned to a specific military unit and may accompany troops into combat zones. Embedded journalism was introduced by the U.S. Department of Defense during the Iraq War (2003-11) as a strategic response to criticism of the low supply of journalists during the Gulf War (1990-91) and the early years of the Afghanistan War ( which began in 2001).


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Although battlefield reporting dates back to ancient times, embedded journalism added a new dimension to coverage of the war. While journalists had fairly broad access to the Vietnam War, some commanders felt that the media’s portrayal of that war had contributed to lower public support for it. As a result, Gulf War coverage was largely limited to the “pool system,” in which a small number of journalists were selected to accompany the military and act as news agents for the rest of the press. In early 2003, as it became increasingly clear that war between the United States and Iraq was imminent, the Department of Defense offered journalists the opportunity to join U.S. forces after they underwent boot camp-style training and accepted a set of ground rules. During the invasion of Iraq, about 600 embedded journalists joined U.S. forces.

Scholarly debate about the impact of embedded journalists’ cover-up of combat operations began while U.S. troops were still en route to Baghdad. On the one hand, it was claimed that a new standard of openness and immediacy had been created for war reporting. It was assumed that journalists directly involved in military operations would provide a more urgent account of events, jettisoning the inevitable speculation that might arise if they kept the media at bay. Others, however, took a more negative view of embedding and expressed particular concerns about bias in reporting. Even media organizations that participated in the embedding program described it as an attempt to portray the American side of the war in a sympathetic light by letting journalists into the culture of the military and destroying the objectivity that journalists were forced to maintain.

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