Saturday, April 5, 2003

Media offer insight into risks of war


Reporter's death in Iraq underscores local forum

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DELHI TWP. - The death of former Cincinnati Post reporter Michael Kelly, the first American journalist killed in the war with Iraq, underscored Friday's panel discussion among Cincinnati media experts about the dangers and dilemmas facing reporters on the front lines.

Kelly, a Washington Post columnist and Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large who died in a Humvee accident while traveling with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, was remembered in a moment of silence in a packed auditorium at the College of Mount St. Joseph.

"It was very emotional," said Julie Lemmink, a 26-year-old education major who left the discussion with "more respect for what journalists do."

She also said the 90-minute forum taught her to be more circumspect about what she sees, hears and reads about the war.

"I have found myself absolutely glued to the TV," she said.

"I guess (the war) really has been glorified. I don't want to say I am going to detach myself from it, but I am going to take a step back from it, start taking breaks from it. I am going to look for different sources."

The panel included reporters, columnists and editors from local newspapers and television stations and professors from the University of Cincinnati and the College of Mount St. Joseph. Among them was Cincinnati Post editor Barry Horstman, who spoke briefly about Kelly, his former colleague.

Although informal, the panel fielded a range of tough questions from the audience of more than 100 students, professors and residents. They talked about the pitfalls of getting too close to military sources and the ethical issues facing "embedded journalists" who have to live day and night with the people they cover.

University of Cincinnati journalism professor Jon Hughes, who reported from Bosnia and Croatia in 1997, said he believed reporters can lose their objectivity by spending too much time with one group of soldiers.

Instead, he said, journalists should change units and move around.

But that rang hollow for 73-year-old Charles Stinson, a World War II and Korean War veteran.

"As a vet myself, I don't think a reporter can get too close to the people fighting," he said. "That's because what they are going through can't be described in words."

You have to be there, experience it and witness the toll combat takes, he said.

Stinson, whose son is a student at the College of Mount St. Joseph, said he was glad he came to the forum.

"It was great. (Panelists) did a great job," he said. "The opinions were diverse and very thought provoking."

Nursing student Allison Ankenman, 19, said the panel answered questions about the media's role in covering the war.

"I want to be informed," she said. "It is my duty to be informed."

She was struck most by journalists who pointed out that it is OK to be opposed to the war and still support American troops.

Nineteen-year-old Kelly Moore, a physical therapy student, also said that was important. Too often, she said, the media equates antiwar sentiments as anti-troop sentiment.

"Even though you may not agree with the war, you still have to support the troops," she said. "I thought it was interesting to see the different points of view from the different people in the media."

While some students were offered extra credit to attend the forum, communications major John Stranko, 21, said he was just trying to get a better understanding of war reporting.

"I'm still for everything. I'm still for the war and for our troops," he said, adding the forum didn't change his feelings about the war. "But I think it helped people to hear different views."

E-mail ranglen@enquirer.com




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