Peter Braestrup's Big Story

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first report from Saigon, Cronkite told his audience that “first and simplest, the Viet Cong suffered a military defeat.” Walter Cronkite, declared that they could not see in all of this fighting any quick end to the burden of this war. Cronkite’s well known statement, concluded the feelings of the Vietnam War, “We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds…For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience in Vietnam is to end in stalemate. Today that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”
There are two, interrelated myths surrounding
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He concludes that the reporting on the attacks, particularly on the embassy in Saigon, was inaccurate at the outset, misinformed, and superficial. He claims reporters overstated the shock created by the assault on the cities by focusing on the most dramatic events such as the battle on the embassy grounds and General Nguyen Ngoc Loan’s assassination of an NLF prisoner on the street in Saigon. Braestrup argued that the lack of inexperience and lack of understanding of the nature of the fighting, rather than ideology led to this development. As Braestrup has acknowledged, “no empirical data exist to link news coverage with changes in public opinion.” William Hammond references Peter Braestrup’s book, Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington, especially in an appendix on public opinion by Burns Roper, argued convincingly that the public made up its own mind about the war, irrespective of what the press said. As Braestrup indicates, completely without merit-they tend to oversimplify a matter of extreme complexity. Donelson Moss notes, there is no evidence that support that television reporting had a negative impact on public…show more content…
The second myth, that the Tet Offensive was a military victory, is as incorrect as the television thesis as it demonstrated that the United States could not win a limited war of attrition in Vietnam and had to change policy. Westmoreland’s comment about the effect of Cronkite’s word notwithstanding, evidence exists to support the contention that, rather than changing opinions within the viewing audience, television coverage of the war may have reinforced those that already existed. Press coverage became negative after the enemy’s Tet Offensive in February 1968, but by that time the American public’s view of the war had itself begun to shift. In the end, the doubts festering just beneath the official optimism in Washington had a profound influence upon the willingness of Johnson administration officials to accept the Saigon correspondent’s erroneous conclusions over Westmoreland’s assurances that the Tet Offensive had been an American
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