Q&A Thursday #48: Would Reporters Let The Government Know About An Impending Terrorist Attack?

Question: “Do you think that if the NYT or other liberal news outlet were to get word of an upcoming terrorist attack on US soil, they would let the government know about it?” — klaatuwolf

Answer: Some of them would issue a warning and some of them would just get in position to make sure they could get good footage of people dying and two of the most prominent names in the mainstream media have essentially said as much.

Here’s an excerpt from Newsbusters that discusses an, “edition of the PBS panel series, Ethics in America, devoted to war coverage, which was taped at Harvard in late 1987,”

“In a future war involving U.S. soldiers what would a TV reporter do if he learned the enemy troops with which he was traveling were about to launch a surprise attack on an American unit? That’s just the question Harvard University professor Charles Ogletree Jr, as moderator of PBS’ Ethics in America series, posed to ABC anchor Peter Jennings and 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace. Both agreed getting ambush footage for the evening news would come before warning the U.S. troops.

For the March 7 installment on battlefield ethics Ogletree set up a theoretical war between the North Kosanese and the U.S.-supported South Kosanese. At first Jennings responded: “If I was with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans.”

Wallace countered that other reporters, including himself, “would regard it simply as another story that they are there to cover.” Jennings’ position bewildered Wallace: “I’m a little bit of a loss to understand why, because you are an American, you would not have covered that story.”

“Don’t you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?” Ogletree asked. Without hesitating Wallace responded: “No, you don’t have higher duty…you’re a reporter.” This convinces Jennings, who concedes, “I think he’s right too, I chickened out.”

Ogletree turns to Brent Scrowcroft, now the National Security Adviser, who argues “you’re Americans first, and you’re journalists second.” Wallace is mystified by the concept, wondering “what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by North Kosanese on American soldiers?” Retired General William Westmoreland then points out that “it would be repugnant to the American listening public to see on film an ambush of an American platoon by our national enemy.”

There you go.

So, if people who think like Wallace or the late Peter Jennings in the mainstream media — and undoubtedly there are quite a few — were to find out that Al-Qaeda was about to blow up an elementary school, they wouldn’t call the police or the Feds, they’d start setting up their cameras so they could get shots of the little tykes’ corpses being carried off. After all, as reporters they, “have higher duty.”

PS: Now the reporters at Fox? They’d pick up the phone and call the Feds. After all, they’re Americans first and reporters second. It goes without saying which approach I think is the right one.

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