Ross Mackenzie

Operation Iraqi Freedom has spawned a new use of the word "embed" - in the sense of attaching media types to coalition military units for on-site reporting of action. The Bush administration's decision to embed 500 reporters is yet another brilliant stroke.

(Time out. Let's talk lingo. The division between the written press and the electronic media long has been a chasm - members of the press disdaining television news as an entertainment realm inhabited by empty suits selected primarily for those traditionally valued journalistic qualities of hair, face and voice. Perceived resented pay discrepancies between the press that does the work ("the working press") and big-time TV have made the chasm only deeper and wider.

(Spurning the word "media" as awkward - not least in its being a plural frequently employed in reference to a singular - and unwilling to include newsreaders and microphone-holders under the revered "press" umbrella, this space insistently has employed phrases such as "the press and television" or "the press and the electronic media." No more. The jobs being turned in by TV reporters attached to coalition military units have won for television reporters at last the privilege of calling themselves "members of the press," too.)

Embedding reporters is brilliant for two primary reasons. (1) It informs the public about war developments instantaneously, thanks to the wonders of satellite, cell phone and videophone communication. And (2) it greatly enhances respect for the military not only among the public but also within the press cohort that tends viscerally to diminish those in the military and much of what it stands for. Let's come back to this.

Of course, informing the public is what a diligent press should be all about; democracies with informed citizenries function best. Intrepid war journalism - as exemplified by many such as Ernie Pyle and George Polk, Marguerite Higgins and Bernard Fall - is a noble genre. And for the most part the best writing, the best reporting, has concentrated on, principally, men in combat - their anguish, their courage, their love for their country, their gallantries and sacrifices.

(Yes, reporters have written extensively on women, too - but should America allow its women into combat? Right now, the Iraqis hold among their POWs Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson - a single mother of a 2-year-old girl; in the Gulf War, of the 21 U.S. prisoners taken, two were women who later testified to molestation possibly including rape. Is this the sort of circumstance - the dismal fate - to which any civilized society not facing extinction should willingly subject its women?)

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

Be the first to read Ross Mackenzie's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.