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AP reporter sees technological leaps over 40 years of covering war

By Clark Gregor
Special to freedomforum.org

09.27.01

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Between the end of the Vietnam War and the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War, an electronic revolution radically changed the way journalists cover conflicts, according to Associated Press reporter Richard Pyle.

"Journalism has been immensely improved by technology because computers do the work," speeding up the process of writing and filing, which allows for more and better news coverage.

Despite the technological innovations, reporting has always been the same: "Find out what's going on, get names, notes, background and such," he said.

Pyle spent five of his 40 years at the AP reporting in Vietnam. He also covered the Persian Gulf War.

"Technology in Vietnam was typewriters and telephones," he said. If today's technologies had been available during the Vietnam War, it "could have changed the war."

Sending stories from Vietnam back to the United States meant most reporters didn't know if their stories were printed and didn't get feedback from editors or readers. "We were just trying to tell the world what was going on there, and what war was all about," Pyle said. "You couldn't write the story and worry about what it means back at [the White House]."

Reports from Vietnam were not censored by the military, Pyle said. A reporter's main concern was to avoid reporting a military action before it occurred. But during the Persian Gulf War, "Gen. (Norman) Schwarzkopf set down rules for press coverage," said Pyle. The military reviewed news reports, which Pyle said sometimes was necessary to ensure military security.

Video and satellite phones are among recent advances in technology that allow reporters to transmit news almost instantly from anywhere around the world. Even a decade ago, technology was not advanced enough for Persian Gulf War reporters to get their stories from the front lines back to newsrooms fast enough. Live television coverage from military headquarters brought details home before wire service reports could be filed from the field, he said.

Pyle spoke at an Aug. 25 Inside Media program in conjunction with the Newseum's exhibit, War Stories, on display through Nov. 11.

Related

War Stories events coverage
Coverage of discussions relating to Newseum's War Stories exhibit.  07.31.01

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