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Basic criticisms

According to David Shaw, the two basic criticisms of embedded reporters are that the reporters will be unable to avoid focusing on the small picture (individual battles, human-interest stories) instead of an overall picture of the war, and that the reporters will come to identify with the soldiers protecting them and giving them stories, and thus lose much of their objectivity. However, for reporters, there is no such thing as “too much access”. There is nothing wrong with real-time reports and next-day reports of events.

The best that reporters can do is report mere slices of the war, and the best way for them to do that is to travel with the soldiers. The big picture does not disappear, because the responsibility of putting their reports into a big-picture perspective falls unto the editors and directors, who will be able to remain relatively objective. Embedded coverage is a “rare window”—and frequently, the alternative to embedded journalism is idle and inaccurate speculation.

On the other hand, Justin Ewers believes that the “insta-news” of today has a price, and that it would be foolish to assume that we are getting the whole truth from embedded journalists. Embedded journalists cannot tell us what is happening with the war itself, but only small bits of events, which do not necessarily tell us anything about the big picture. Embedded journalists become a part of the troops, and cannot help but become involved with the subject of their stories, and are thus unable to maintain their objectivity very well.

What we get is “unjournalistic” coverage. In my point of view, Ewers’ arguments are one-dimensional. He focuses only on the obvious, arguing that embedding only gives a small-picture perspective, and that embedded reporters lose objectivity. While it is certainly preferable that we get an accurate overall picture, Ewers’ expectation of this is not realistic. Ewers does not consider that the alternative, which would be technically more “journalistic”, would frequently be founded on inaccurate information and idle speculation, as David Shaw is able to point out.

Shaw provides a much more thorough and in-depth consideration of the issue. Shaw’s argument against the “loss of objectivity” argument is strong, because the editors and news directors are indeed there to take care of the objectivity. Additionally, Shaw acknowledges that fact that, to reporters, there is no such thing as “too much access” to information, which Ewers fails to mention. Thus, Shaw gives the more convincing argument because he has a good answer for Ewers’ main points, while Ewers does not have any answer for Shaw’s main points.

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