By Richard Dean
There are numerous practices that possess a double edge.
Embedded reporting is such an activity, owning both negative and positive effects. Whether one is allied with the practice or arrayed against it depends upon which they place the greater weight: oversight or objectivity.
I stand with the former, due to a maxim I only recently discovered – Government is too important to be entrusted to politicians.
I do understand the counter argument. David Ignatius’ salient piece tells of the practice’s tendency to provide only a single perspective. When standing near too bright a light, one can become blind. I do not dismiss this concern out of hand. But I do place greater trust in the integrity of those charged with informing the public and believe they can resist any charm.
When dealing with the government, oversight is journalism’s principal aim.
It is especially important that all activities of the government be overseen and its performance reported to the American people. This cannot be done from afar.
The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn, no friend of embedded journalism, ceded “that accompanying armies in the field is usually the only way of finding out what they are doing or think they are doing.”
When one looks to Washington, they may view an island of government afloat in a sea of journalists. This is why little activity in Washington goes unnoticed or unreported. It is why Americans are aware that trade deals have been struck and treaties have been signed.
This differs vastly from those areas where our military operates without the benefit of media oversight. It is why UN aid convoys can be destroyed and no one can be held to account.
It is because no one of consequence is watching and why embedded journalism is so very important.