in-bed’ing with the Pentagon?

This story broke a few weeks ago, but as it’s an on-going issue…

I first heard of it though Sara Terry, with her tweet of:

Dangerous. The Pentagon is profiling reporters and their reporting. Must read.

The link sent me to a story in Stars and Stripes (an excellent news source to follow, by the way!) about how the Pentagon has been profiling the reporters it has been granting embeds to during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The report finds that “Contrary to the insistence of Pentagon officials this week that they are not rating the work of reporters covering U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes has obtained documents that prove that reporters’ coverage is being graded as “positive,” “neutral” or “negative.”

This pie chart was extracted from a report by The Rendon Group, evaluating the focus of coverage by a reporter for a major U.S. newspaper. It indicates the firm’s conclusion that the reporter’s coverage was 83.33 percent neutral and 16.67 percent negative in relation to the military’s mission objectives.

This controversy makes you wonder about, makes you return to the very role and purpose of journalism. Conflict photography, for better or for worse, overwhelms mainstream news sites, so what does it mean when a significant portion of mainstream reporting is being funneled through official channels in the form of embeds? One quote in particular stood out to me in this story:

Rear Adm. Greg Smith, director of communications for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, wrote: “To imply journalists embedded with our forces only serve to highlight positive aspects of our mission slights the professional journalists who regularly embed with our forces and report what they experience, both good and bad.”

If you’re wearing sunglasses, all will look shades darker peering through their frames – things beautiful and terrifying alike. And while this metaphor may be a stretch, I’ll leave it at that and open this one up to discussion, as it’s quite late and I’d rather hear what you all have to say on this issue rather than listening to myself write! Thoughts? Questions? Ideas? What are the advantages of embedding, and what about the reports they produce need to be taken with a grain of salt?


the mental tipping point

The media’s abuzz with talk of climate change this week – the G8 leaders met and agreed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2° Celsius, and a climate and energy bill that squeaked through the House is now on its way to the Senate.

Climate change activists, however, aren’t exactly jumping with joy.  With talk of a tipping point sometime in the next 5-7 years, wherein so much pollution will have been pumped into our planet’s soil, water, and air that we can no longer reverse the damage, what we need now are concrete actions to prevent further degredation.

To get that?  A major mentality shift has to happen.  Action to prevent climate change is not long a should, but a must.

Luckily, such a shift comes in all shapes and colors.  Supporting positive steps to reduce our impact can be done for any number of reasons – it’s economically smart, as countless businesses will fail as the earth starts to; it’s morally sound, as climate change will undeniably affect the world’s poorest first and worst; it’s asthetically pleasing to have a green and blue planet rather than a soot-colored one.  Take your pick.  And then push for real change.

The climate bill that’s heading on to the Senate right now, while heartening, is truly disappointing; yes, it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s been overrun by political pandering, with 85% of the permits given away to the politically favored.

Thus, while the environmental tipping point may be fast approach, we, the human race, have still have not hit that mental tipping point.  A friend recently sent me the commencement address delivered by Paul Hawken, renowned entrepreneur and environmental activist, at the University of Portland this year.  Here’s a particularly spectacular portion.

We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

One can only hope that we have enough foresight and willpower to identify at least a few of the right solutions and enact them quickly, so we don’t end up on the other side with too little too late.

I’ll be posting later with a list of things to do to counter climate change, both in the Boston area and beyond.  Thanks for reading!