Telling Stories the Military Doesn't Want Told

Olmsted, Dan
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p45
This article focuses on press coverage of military conditions and events which the U.S. military doesn't want told. NBC News Tom Brokaw might have the run of an aircraft carrier, and it's easy for reporters to get interviews with grunts who tell how good morale is and how happy they are to be fighting thousands of miles from home. It gets different when a reporter tries to cover stories about soldiers who believe they are getting shafted--especially when they are. After United Press International Inc. (UPI) reporter Mark Benjamin's story on the conditions of the wounded soldiers at Fort Stewart, Georgia, UPI was tipped that similar conditions also existed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He flew there, this time with a UPI photographer. At Fort Knox, the U.S. Army had moved soldiers out of despicable living conditions but the lack of medical care was just as acute. As the photographer tried to photograph gimpy soldiers standing in formation outside the medical hold barracks, he was detained and taken to the garrison commander's office. The next morning, a top U.S. Army public affairs official called one of the top executives of UPI to say that UPI had been caught trespassing. Another moment came when an attempt is made to get the military's attention on a shocking incident which the controversial malaria drug, Lariam, was an issue. Benjamin hasn't given up. In fact, he keeps doing stories that are pursued by few other reporters.


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