Wartime Journalism in the Digital Age

On April 19th, 2009, the New York Times published an audio slideshow online. The narrator was a soldier stationed in Afghanistan who spoke of one particular experience in which he and his company were ambushed. During the firefight, one soldier was shot and killed. After they had come back to find their lost companion, the narrator mentioned that they were relieved in spite of the fact that he was dead, if only because they knew he where he was and that he had not been captured.

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I think that one of the benefits of having this kind of media to portray a story like this is that it does feel very personal. Photos of the soldiers moving through wooded areas and sliding down slippery slopes were taken such that you almost feel you were there. This story was told almost from the bottom up, as the narrator mentioned a few specific facts before giving a bigger overview of what happened. Personally, however, I prefer the ‘inverted triangle’ of reporting. I think that it makes the story clearer to start out with the broader details and, building on specificity, so that readers who are more interested can read on and find out the more definite details.

I cannot be sure of the specifics, but generally it seems like when it comes to reporting about wars, censorship and propriety are very important. If the audience knew some of the ‘gory details’ about the inherent violence, perhaps support of the war would diminish. Companies might withdraw funding, or refuse to send aid if they thought that public opinion would influence their profits. For the most part, it seems like news coverage of warzones can be distant and impersonal, especially when video broadcasting goes through so many filters in the form of the videographer, the reporter and editor. In 2006, BBC published an article by Paul Brannan referring to the Battle of the Somme in July 1, 1916. He wrote, “It’s fanciful to speculate on whether the war might have been brought to a swift conclusion if the peoples on all sides had known the true horror of what was happening.”

The method used in this video to show a soldier’s point of view during battle was effective and, at times, awe-inspiring. Even the photos suggested what it was like to follow this group into the fray, some of which were blurred from movement, like the photo below. For these reasons, I believe that if the story had been published either in print (eliminating the narration) or on radio (without the aid of photography) the story would have been much less effective. As it stands, this is probably the closest I will ever get to a true warzone. I am thankful that I do not have to be, because of soldiers like Pfc. Dewater.

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