Woodward And Woodruff Signal Need For Real Journalism In America
By James Donahue (2007)
There is an old quote by Thomas Jefferson that every journalism student
in America has had pounded into conscious or at least subconscious memory.
Jefferson said: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without
newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
That was said back when newspapers were busy doing their job, reporting the workings of
our government, and revealing all things that were going both right and wrong.
Jefferson might not have been as willing to make such a statement today in light of the
way newspapers, radio and television reporters have submitted to the controls of government news feeds and given in to manipulated
and well-oiled propaganda machines.
Anyone that watched ABC Anchor Bob Woodruff's documentary on his personal experience of
suffering a severe head injury while on assignment in Iraq, might sense what we are writing about. They should have been
shocked at the obvious discrepancies in official military reports of wounded soldiers and those discovered by sending reporters
out to count the real numbers of wounded GIs being treated at various military hospitals.
The Pentagon is reporting some 23,700 military personnel wounded in Iraq and over 1,100
wounded in Afghanistan.
But the Woodruff report "suggests those numbers are incomplete" the ABC report said. This
is because investigations through the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that over 200,000 veterans of these two
conflicts have already sought medical assistance from the Department of Veteran Affairs. Many of these requests are for treatment
of problems related to brain injuries or post traumatic stress disorder.
If we have had over 200,000 of our soldiers severely injured in that single conflict, we
should not wonder why Walter Reed Hospital has a spill-over of wounded veterans into make-shift buildings in the neighborhood.
The numbers have been overwhelming the medical facilities and our nation's ability to care for so many wounded soldiers returning
home from the front.
It is time for truth in journalism. It is time for our reporters to start digging and get
to the heart of what is really going on not only in Iraq, but in Washington, D.C., the Pentagon and elsewhere in this troubled
It is time for our journalists to stop allowing the military to control what they
see through an "embedding" system that keeps them relatively safe, but also prohibits what they show us on our nightly
news. There are no more realistic images of bodies being carried off the battlefield like we saw during the
Distinguished journalist Bob Woodward, who spoke in Tokyo this week, called on American
reporters to do this very thing after allowing the Bush Administration to use propaganda to railroad its way for a military invasion
of Iraq in 2003.
Woodward, the author of a new and controversial book, State of Denial," said reporters
should have worked harder to verify the allegation that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein really was concealing weapons of mass
destruction. That was the reason President George W. Bush gave for a reason to invade that ancient nation.
It was a mistake. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq. Yet the U.S.
and British forces led an attack on that country that kick started a civil conflict that now rages out of control. In the
interim, the U.S. has set up a puppet government which, in turn, put Hussein on trial, convicted him of crimes against the
people, and then hung him.
"We should have been more aggressive," Woodward said. "I've thought what I could have done.
The only way to find out if weapons of mass destruction really existed is to get on the ground."
He said true investigative journalism, which would have been required for such research,
is hampered by the modern media which is more concerned with meeting deadlines and making business profits for stockholders.
"It's a crazy media environment," Woodward said. "We need to slow it down. We need weeks,
months or even years to work on stories," he said.
Woodward, who is remembered with Carl Bernstein as the reporters who broke the Watergate
story that toppled the regime of former President Richard M. Nixon, said it is important "to make the government accountable
so we do not get a secret government.
"The nightmare is that the president gets so closed off, so secretive, so convinced they
are doing the right thing or just unable to face the possibility that they've made a very, very serious mistake," he said.