Vietnam War Media Analysis

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Media Coverage in the Vietnam War

The media played a big role during the Vietnam War and their coverage has greatly affected how the media can cover modern wars. During Vietnam, the media were given almost full access to everything from battlefields, gunfights, the wounded, the dead, and interviews with the soldiers themselves. This was also the first war that was able to be viewed on TV; over 90 percent of Americans had TV’s, and 60 percent used TV as their main source of news (Hillsheim). The “gruesome showing of death and pain” made many Americans squirm on their couches (Burns). This forced the US government to put laws into place to limit what the media can and cannot show on TV during times of war.
From the start of World War II, television
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Journalists were able to use these technological advances to help collect more pictures, videos, and audio recordings than ever before. Yet now, the government had a big problem on their hands, controlling the access and the knowledge the media is allowed in and around the battlefield. David Anderson, of the Columbia University Press stated, “With inadequate government controls, the media was now able to publish uncensored pictures and videos showing the brutality of the war in Vietnam and, thus, vastly influenced American public opinion in unprecedented proportion.”
Before the start of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam war, in the late 1950’s, the press had little to no interest at all in Vietnam, with most reports focusing on the rise of communism in the country. This lack of interest wouldn’t last as by the end of 1960, the death of civillians in a rebellion against the president sparked major interest among the American media. Soon, many major news stations began sending over scout reporters, as the stories seemed to strike a nerve in the American
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Media started to affect the public’s opinion in a negative way, which became a matter of concern for the government. As the war intensified, the numbers of press in Vietnam increased, from a mere 40 in early 1964, all the way to 419 by August of 1965 (Hallon 106). To keep this new influx of press in check the U.S. had to implement stricter rules to keep from leaking sensitive information. In the later months of 1964, the U.S. Mission and Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) chose to appoint an “information czar” by the name of, Barry Zorthian, to improve and enforce information policy (Rhon). From 1965 to 1967, Barry Zorthian, was able to control the media quite well, with most nightly news stations such as CBS, and NBC telling the daily war stories of “the good guys beating up on those communist pigs.” The news stations liked the stories, as did the American public who tuned in the see the heroic tales of the power of modern democracy. This image of Vietnam soon changed for the worse as the Tet offensive took place.
Late in January of 1968, the Tet Offensive took place marking, according to Jacob Hillsheim, “a major turning point in media’s coverage of the war.” Although the Tet offensive was a travesty and a terrible mistake for the North Vietnamese military, the media reports painted a different picture. The media chose to
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