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Reporting America at War: An Oral History


At the turning points of modern American history, from the beaches of Normandy to the jungles of Southeast Asia, war correspondents have served as our eyes and ears-sometimes even as our conscience. Courageous and controversial, they have captured war in all its brutality, folly, and drama. In the process, they have both reflected and altered America's sense of itself.

In this unique book-which covers all of our nation's major conflicts from World War II to the present-personal...

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At the turning points of modern American history, from the beaches of Normandy to the jungles of Southeast Asia, war correspondents have served as our eyes and ears-sometimes even as our conscience. Courageous and controversial, they have captured war in all its brutality, folly, and drama. In the process, they have both reflected and altered America's sense of itself.

In this unique book-which covers all of our nation's major conflicts from World War II to the present-personal tales intermingle with explorations of such critical issues as censorship, propaganda, press ethics, and the press's relationship with the Pentagon, both before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Together, they form a vivid and illuminating account that is essential reading for all who seek to understand the nature of war and how we learn about it.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The Media and the War on Terrorism takes on issues like the reasons many major news organizations, including The Times and the networks' evening news, did not report on the findings of the United States Commission on National Security/21st Century, led by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, which predicted, in January 2001, a 9/11-type attack. It dissects press issues like covering dissent, the evils of conglomerate ownership and the so-called CNN Effect, the ability of the news media to drive foreign policy. —H.D.S. Greenway
Publishers Weekly
Beginning with Edward R. Murrow's live reports during the London blitz and ending with an epilogue on the second war in Iraq, this oral history contains transcripts of interviews with 11 top correspondents. Murrow is one of three deceased reporters included (the others are Martha Gellhorn and Homer Bigart), along with Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, Frank Gibney, Malcolm Browne, David Halberstam, Morley Safer, Ward Just, Gloria Emerson, Chris Hedges and Christiane Amanpour. Compared with correspondents who covered WWII and Korea, today's journalists tend to have more campaign ribbons. The New York Times's Hedges, for example, has covered Central America, the Middle East and the Balkans; Amanpour has reported for CNN from the Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia, Somalia and Afghanistan. The correspondents who were in Vietnam-including Homer Bigart and Gloria Emerson-opine on the official disinformation campaign and the corruption of the Saigon regime, while Amanpour, who covered a different kind of war in Somalia, speaks of the impact of the repeated showing of footage of an American soldier's body being dragged through Mogadishu, which she says caused the Clinton administration to curtail the U.S.'s mission there. Tobin's introductions and transitional and informational interpolations within the transcripts hold this informative volume together. Just sums up the book's importance: "As long as there are wars, it is very important to know, in the details, how they are being fought [and] to know the manner in which people are dying.... If someone isn't there to report it, it's just a tree crashing in the forest with nobody to hear it." Photos. (Oct. 8) Forecast: The book, a tie-in to a PBS documentary series airing in November, should receive some attention, thanks to a radio interview campaign and print ads. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Journalists who have followed U.S. troops into battle since World War II reflect on their profession in this book published in conjunction with a two-part PBS documentary that aired in November 2003. From daily radio broadcasts and weekly newsreel footage in World War II and Korea and war news on TV at dinnertime during Vietnam to 24/7 reporting on the Gulf War and Kosovo and reporters embedded with the troops in Iraq, the war correspondent has played a critical role. As David Halberstam says, "You are witness to the most elemental thing in human life--survival, people killing people--and a great deal is at stake . I think [war] brings out the best in reporters." Many of the reporters covered multiple wars: Walter Cronkite had World War II and Vietnam; Martha Gellhorn started with the Spanish Civil War; Homer Bigart reported from all the theaters of World War II, went to Korea, and then to Vietnam. They also remember their predecessors, Edward R. Murrow and Ernie Pyle. The tremendous influence of journalists on the public reaction to the government handling of military affairs is evident here. It's unfortunate that the narrators (William Dufris, Christopher Price, and others) attempt to imitate the accents of the well-known reporters whose work they read; it is curious, too, that a Brit would narrate the chapter introductions, which are, after all, about American reporters. The accents detract, rather than enhance this work. Purchase where demand warrants.--Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792730590
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged

Meet the Author

Michelle Ferrari, writer of the PBS series Reporting America at War, has been creating innovative and critically acclaimed documentary narratives for more than a decade. She was the writer of the PBS special Out of the Past and the American Experience documentary Seabiscuit, which earned her a 2003 Primetime Emmy nomination. Her work also has been seen on HBO and Cinemax, and has received honors from the Writers Guild of America, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, and film festivals nationwide. She lives in New York City.

James Tobin won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II. His most recent book is To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Edward R. Murrow 11
Walter Cronkite 19
Martha Gellhorn 33
Andy Rooney 51
Frank Gibney 63
Homer Bigart 73
Malcolm W. Browne 91
David Halberstam 111
Morley Safer 133
Ward Just 147
Gloria Emerson 163
Chris Hedges 191
Christiane Amanpour 207
Epilogue: The War in Iraq, 2003 219
Afterword 227
Acknowledgments 229
Index 233
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