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Parents, Educators Advised to Caution Children About News Reports

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2004 – Parents and educators must warn children they can't believe everything they see on TV, a Fox News Channel commentator said recently at the Military Child Education Coalition's annual convention in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Gibson, host of "The Big Story with John Gibson," an hour-long news-analysis program, made his comments to the more than 400 attendees at the conference's closing session.

The commentator admitted there's a problem with news coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "You have to bear in mind (that) in most cases there is an agenda from the news, from news managers, from news executives," he explained. "They try to hide it. They say there isn't, but there is."

He also admitted that reporters often report thing erroneously. Gibson called it "the collateral damage of the news business." If, for instance, kids hear about an improvised explosive device going off and some soldiers getting killed, children with a deployed parent might get kind of panicked about that.

"You have to caution them that these early reports can be wrong," he said. "You must understand that news is the first draft of history, and there are many drafts to come."

Gibson also warned the audience about children watching and listening to the "non-news media," entertainers who make outrageous claims in their work. He used the statement that President Bush brought down the World Trade Center twin towers as an example of such outrageous claims.

Gibson shared some of his experiences in covering the U.S. military. He recalled traveling to Mombassa, Kenya, several years ago for NBC News to cover U.S. troops delivering food to the country's starving population. What caught his attention most, he said, was that there was an American at every phone booth on the big base from which the food was being distributed.

"There was some American military person standing there and talking to home about car payments, kids in school, bills, roof leaks, plumbing that doesn't work and the bathroom overflowed," Gibson told the audience. "You just looked at it and your heart broke.

"They are doing a really good job in a really hostile environment and they've still got to deal with these issues that are hard enough to deal with when you're home."

Gibson said reporters had been told not to use their satellite phones more than necessary because they cost an exorbitant amount to operate. Still, one night in his hotel he felt compelled to let five "dusty, bedraggled, tired-looking American Marines" use his phone to call home.

Gibson sat down and watched each of them call home and talk for about a half hour. "It was all 'Yeah honey, I do love you. Now what about the car? What about the kids? What about the school? What about the insurance? What about the house? What about the roof? What about the carpet? What about the dog?" he recalled.

Gibson said all he had to do was write his story, and when his wife called, he normally just had to say, "Okay, fine," about everything.

"These guys have got people shooting at them and they have to make decisions about shooting people," he noted. "They are living on (meals, ready to eat). They are in these tents with scorpions crawling all over them, and this is what they've got to deal with? I really felt bad about it."

Gibson said over the years he has thought about the plight of military personnel and their families, particularly National Guard and reserve families. "I begin to see these stories about National Guard families, where the Guardsman is pulled out of a $100 grand a year job and deployed for a year," he said. "And now the family is at home coping with whatever the military pay is. And things are rough."

In comparing the Cold War with the war on terrorism, Gibson said a major difference is that the United States could always negotiate with the Russians. They were sometimes "thick headed, maybe they cheated, maybe they really had ulterior motives that you couldn't trust. But you could negotiate with them," he said. "There's no negotiating with (the terrorists)." Gibson said.

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