May 11, 2009
Katie's Embed With The Pentagon (And Their Photographer)
You know what gets me fired up (and what consequently troubles me about love-ins like the White House Correspondents Dinner) ?
It’s watching Katie Couric traveling around with the Defense Secretary through the Middle East and Asia for days at a time while blogging about it like a starry-eyed school girl on a field trip. And then, what’s worse is to see Couric and CBS completely blur the reporting lines by illustrating one of those wonderful travelogue posts (also marketed to Couric’s 22,000 Twitter followers) with a photograph taken by the Pentagon — one, if I make it out right, which documents Katie — the helicopter-riding fan — capturing all the imagery she could possibly want with her Flip camera.
I actually raised the issue of the media illustrating stories using military photographs back in 2005 when the LAT documented hostilities in Western Iraq with material from Rumsfeld’s “shooters” (the post leading to an NPR “On The Media” interview two weeks later about the practice with the director of photography for the AP).
And then, having spent five days going around with Secretary Gates, to what extent did Katie manage to get any sense of the fact that the Afghan campaign — the beautiful poppies notwithstanding — has been mostly a fail, leading just a few days later to our top Commander over there getting canned?
Update 1: Turns out Katie’s softball interview with Commander McKiernan, recorded before she left Afghanistan three days ago but posted today, was his last as Commander in Afghanistan. In this video from tonight’s CBS Evening News, in fact, Katie — who was never the wiser — not only reports that McKiernan was dumped because his “expertise in waging a counter-insurgency was inadequate,” but that the firing McKiernan turned out to be the whole reason for Gates’ trip to Afghanistan in the first place.
More visual shenanigans blurring the lines between CBS and the military?
Check out this post Katie did the day after the one above. When a network credits a photo to itself, the news consumer must go on faith that the photo was indeed captured by the media, right? Funny thing is, when you check the photo essay of the same event from the Department of Defense website, you see what appears to be the exact same photo, once again taken by the Pentagon but somehow credited, on Couric’s blog, to CBS.
(full post here)
Now, surely this photo — a shot of Gates and Couric in Cairo illustrating Katie’s post four days earlier — had to have been taken by a CBS photographer, yes? Umm, try again.
So I’m wondering two things. First, why should the MSM — especially with all their financial troubles these days — have to worry about shooting their own photography when the military (on the hush-hush) seems perfectly willing to do it for them? And second, did the press learn nothing from Judy Miller?
(Slightly revised and updated: 11:57 pm PST)