Notes from a frequent viewer of a televised war early in the second week:
• The reports from the battlefield, from the journalists embedded with the troops, have been remarkably objective. Not objective in the sense that they present both pros and cons, but objective in the sense that they present neither pros nor cons; instead, they simply tell the tale, the facts and figures of a war's logistics. As a result, people opposed to the war cannot help but find the objectivity biased.
• The retired military men serving as studio analysts have, for the most part, distinguished themselves as well, providing commentary that is not opinion, but clarification, analysis of matters that might otherwise be too complicated for the non-military mind. A few of them, though, do get a little jingoistic at times.
• But it is not jingoistic for reporters in the war zones to refer to the troops as "we." Since those reporters are, in most cases, traveling in tandem with the soldiers, they are speaking the literal truth when they say things like, "We will be advancing on the enemy shortly after dawn."
• Nor is it jingoistic for a studio anchor to refer to the American fighting forces as "we." The pronoun in this case does not indicate a position on the war, but a simple acknowledgement that some of those fighting the war are fellow citizens. And besides, doesn't "they" sound a little peculiar coming from a U.S. journalist about a U.S. soldier?
• Speaking of the people behind the anchor desk, their role in covering this war is crucial, for the numerous reports from the embeds do not present an overall picture of what is happening in the Middle East. Here is how Jason Gay puts it in the New York Observer: "[The anchors] may wind up being the embeds we turn to most. Those brave field correspondents, night-vision videophones and computer-imaging maps are dazzling, but what we've learned rather quickly in this war is that we still need someone safely home behind a desk, listening to everyone on the hunt, trying to explain what it all means."
Well put, Jason.
• The presence of journalists in the midst of the fighting might end up being a civilizing influence on the American military. War is a brutal business, but the Bush administration wants its fighting men and women to be seen as liberators, not barbarians. With cameras and notepads omnipresent in Iraq and environs, soldiers are even more likely than they would otherwise be to restrain themselves from bestial behavior.
• But Marine Corps public affairs officer Chris Hughes might be going too far when he insists that the presence of journalists in the midst of the fighting is, well, inspirational. Hughes recently said the following to the Weekly Standard's Matt Labash: "The thing I've always liked about having media present is it tells that Marine or soldier just how important their job is. If CNN is in your fighting hole, what you're doing is important. And that's tremendous."
Wait a minute, Chris. Don't you think Marines under fire know how important their job is regardless of media presence?
• Oh, memo to CNN's Walter Rodgers. Next time anchor Aaron Brown compliments you for one of your reports on the war, don't say, as you did last time, "Thanks, Aaron, it's great fun." It might be, as you later put it, Walter, a real "adrenaline rush" to you to cover the carnage, but it is a literal matter of life-and-death to the rest of us, and we'd prefer not to know what a sweet old time you're having.
• Here's hoping that it will not be possible to write too many more columns like this.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.. ET/8 p.m. PT .