Covering combat

The Pentagon's decision to permit a small media pool to cover the initial stages of future military operations constitutes one gain for the public and its representative, the press: government acceptance of a media presence. Formation of the pool stems from pressure by the American news media, which were totally excluded from covering the initial phases of the United States invasion of Grenada a year ago.

The Pentagon ruling, however, does not go far enough. The proposed pool, to consist of 11 people, is too small, and it does not now include representatives of any newspapers. The group should be modestly enlarged and should include a number of newspaper journalists, on a rotating basis.

The press pool should be viewed within the framework of the American tradition of news coverage of military affairs, which is essential to the public support of a resort to arms. All media have their roles, and daily newspapers should be permitted to play theirs. They provide a detail and a variety of analysis and input that time and video constraints do not permit for television.

Clearly some selection would have to take place among competing newspaper representatives: Only a limited number of journalists could expect to participate in the first phases of a Grenada-style invasion. But methods of selection do exist; some are in use in determining other press groupings. Such selection can and should be undertaken in the case of a Pentagon media pool.

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