Project Description

ReportingAmerica
“You owe it to yourself to see Reporting America at War. It is invaluable, that rare program that matters, that elevates television journalism beyond slogans, ratings and punditry.” – Orlando Sentinel
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In television’s first comprehensive look at an extremely timely issue, the Emmy-nominated Reporting America at War explores the role of American journalists in the pivotal conflicts of the 20th century – and beyond. From San Juan Hill to the beaches of Normandy, from the jungles of Vietnam to the Persian Gulf, the three-hour documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Stephen Ives tells the dramatic and often surprising stories of the reporters who brought the wars home to us. Through the lens of their experiences, the film examines the challenges of frontline reporting and illuminates the role of the correspondent in shaping the way wars have been remembered and understood. “This is the story of the men and women who have brought war home to us,” says director Stephen Ives, “War correspondents are mythic figures that have captured the American imagination, and the history of their exploits on the battlefield offers a revealing glimpse into the workings of our democracy.”

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At the heart of Reporting America at War are the courageous, controversial men and women who have communicated the chaos and brutality of the battlefield to their fellow citizens on the homefront. In addition to profiles of such distinguished historical figures as Richard Harding Davis, Edward R. Murrow and Ernie Pyle, the documentary features conversations with some of the most influential correspondents of our time – among them Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, David Halberstam, Morley Safer, Peter Arnett, Christiane Amanpour and Chris Hedges. Together, their experiences offer fresh and compelling perspective on the history of America’s military conflicts, and raise provocative questions about the rights and responsibilities of a free press in times of war.

Much more than a collection of journalists’ reflections, Reporting America at War also offers an engaging and informative look at the history of the American media. By tracing the development of war reporting over the course of the last century, the documentary examines a host of fundamental cultural transformations which have shaped not only the press, but the nation itself, including the birth of the modern newspaper; the rise of yellow journalism; the invention of radio, television and the Internet; the recent proliferation of pundits and news analysts; and the explosive growth of 24-hour cable news. In a special concluding segment, the program also engages the current debate over the policy of embedding journalists in Iraq, and assesses the significance of this initiative for the future of war reporting.

Episode One begins in 1898 with the Spanish-American War and, after flashing backward to trace the Civil War-era roots of American war reporting, goes on to explore the role of political commitment in war coverage during the first half of the twentieth century. Through the experiences of Martha Gellhorn, Ernie Pyle, Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite and others, the film examines the ways in which a belief in the rightness of the cause led to an emphasis on the noble and heroic aspects of battle, and to an unprecedented level of cooperation between the military and the press.

Episode Two charts the erosion of that consensus during the Cold War conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and examines the backlash against the media that took place in the more recent conflicts in Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf. The episode also explores the role of technology in shaping the current relationship between the military and the press.

Reporting America at War is a co-production of Insignia Films and WETA Washington, D.C. The series was produced by Amanda Pollak and Stephen Ives, written by Michelle Ferrari, and directed by Mr. Ives. The narrator is Linda Hunt. The Executive Producer for Insignia Films is Robert A. Wilson. Executive producers for WETA are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson.