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.