Myers Challenges Editors to Tell Full Story in War Coverage
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 15, 2005 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff encouraged newspaper editors today to tell America the full story of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's particularly important today ... because the American people need to know the full story," said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, "because it is going to be their resolve that is so critical to our ability to confront the extremist threat."
Myers told the editors that he reads far more about the problems of servicemembers' equipment and the latest insurgent attack than about "the thousands of amazing things our troops are accomplishing." This concerns him, he said, because American resolve is key to success.
The chairman said that part of the problem lies with the military. He said commanders must be more responsive and give more access to reporters. "We're working on that," he told the editors.
But still, "a bomb blast is seen as more newsworthy than the steady progress of rebuilding communities and lives, remodeling schools and running vaccination programs and water purification plants."
Myers said there about 140,000 U.S. servicemembers are in Iraq, 20,000 in Afghanistan and about 25,000 in other countries in the region. "They are doing absolutely remarkable work," he said. "They have the best training, the best equipment and the best of America's values and professionalism.
"They're clearly the best of any military that exists today or, for that matter, that ever has existed," he continued. "They are rebuilding these countries after years of oppression and restoring hope for generations where there just hasn't been any hope."
Myers said this was the reason he and other Defense Department leaders pushed for the media "embed" program in Iraq, in which reporters traveled with military units in the war zone. He said DoD officials were not afraid of what servicemembers would tell reporters.
"Our troops accurately represent the armed forces and their missions," he said. "Every day, they understand they are improving life in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the world."
Myers challenged the newspaper editors to ensure the American people understand the hundreds of ways their sons and daughters are improving lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"In your profession and mine, (we are) working hard to defend our values, our way of life and our Constitution," Myers said. "We risk our comfort, our safety and our lives for what we believe in." The chairman noted that more than 40 journalists have been killed while covering operations in Iraq. The "Fourth Estate" always has covered conflicts, Myers noted, but what is different today is the amount of news and that it travels so much faster than in the past.
"What questions are the news reports trying to answer?" the chairman asked. "The theme of the coverage lately seems to be 'When are the troops coming home?' rather than 'What are we accomplishing?'"
He said he understands that editors are wrestling with the problem. "But I don't think that both sides of the equation ... are being covered adequately," he said. "There really is so much more news out there, stories that go untold because, frankly, the stories are harder to tell."
He said the military will work with the press. "Our task is to give you better access, more timely information and we will do that," he said. "In return I would ask you to keep at the task of trying to show as complete a picture as you can. I know our troops deserve that, and I think the American people deserve it as well."