A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


By Quill

Pentagon prepares war training course

In an attempt to preplan media coverage of a possible war with Iraq, the Pentagon will offer training for journalists in military combat basics. The one-week training sessions are still in the planning stage, according to Pentagon officials, but it has been determined that each branch of the military will participate in the sessions.

Topics will include military customs, ammunitions, basic first aid and how to protect oneself while under nuclear, chemical and biological attack. The sessions will also discuss rules of engagement and the U.S. command structure and customs.

The training is meant to ensure that journalists will not hinder commanders during operations, according to Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for the Pentagon. He added that such training is not a prerequisite for reporting on military units, and it does not guarantee access, either. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said it was “generally almost always helpful” to provide access for journalists, though he added, “there are times when it is not appropriate.”

AP identifies more possible inaccuracies

The Associated Press has sent out a corrected list of stories by reporter Christopher Newton, who was dismissed on Sept. 16 after inquiries about crime statistics in a Sept. 8 piece. The existence of experts quoted in the article could not be verified, and Newton was either unwilling or unable to provide proof authenticating the sources.

He had worked for the AP in Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., since 1994. After reviewing hundreds of stories, the AP has determined that 39, not including the Sept. 8 piece, contain information from individuals who cannot be located. Most unidentifiable sources had academic or public policy credentials in the articles.

The AP is considering a requirement that staff writers include phone numbers of sources with stories so that editors can check their work. Feedback from quoted sources may also be sought after stories are published.

Media criticized for showing police hand

The media was reprimanded strongly by Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose after information about the so-called serial sniper was leaked. Moose suggested that maybe the press should just take over the investigation.

Moose’s reaction came after WUSA-TV (Channel 9) revealed that a taunting message on a tarot card was left behind by the sniper near Bowie middle school, where a teenage victim was shot. A story in the Washington Post revealed the same information.

“I have not received any message that the citizens of Montgomery County want Channel 9 or The Washington Post or any other media outlet to solve this case,” Moose told reporters early in the morning. “If they do, then let me know. We will go and do other police work and we will turn this case over to the media, and you can solve it.”

It was noted that the original leak about the tarot card came from police sources.

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