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Topic section: Reporting war – war as news and entertainment
TOPIC SECTION:
Reporting war – war as news and entertainment
‘War makes rattling good history; but peace is poor reading.’ Thomas Hard
Picture: 02_1983-5236_DHA2573.jpg
'Dead British and ruined transport', 1916
Credit: NMPFT
y

War both fascinates and appals. Nothing boosts newspaper circulation or television audience figures like a ‘good’ war. Today, improvements in equipment and communications mean that viewers and re
In the coverage of conflict the boundaries between entertainment and news are becoming increasingly blurred
aders have unprecedented and often immediate access to a war as it unfolds. As the BBC boasted during the 2003 war in Iraq: ‘Technology is gradually bringing the front line and the living room closer together.’ Small satellite phones, digital cameras and laptop video editing software mean that journalists can file reports direct from the front line.The demand for words and images, from both ‘traditional’ media as well as ‘new’ media, such as the Internet and 24-hour satellite and cable TV news channels, is insatiable. However, does more necessarily mean better?

Most reporters take pride in being objective and emotionally detached from the events they witness.
Picture: 02_1983-5236_M08501.jpg
War photographers, 1945.
Credit: NMPFT
 However, all reporting is selective. Just as much war art contains an element of reportage, much reportage is also, inevitably, subjective. Even assuming reporters have complete access to all the ‘facts’ (by no means a safe assumption, of course), a process of selection then takes place.
Picture: 02_1983-5236_N00686_1.jpg
Tanks guarding prisoners of war, 1944.
Credit: NMPFT


This may be based on the reporter’s aesthetic or technical standards or, more broadly, their political, ethical or moral sensibilities. Subsequently, their work is then usually subjected to a further process of selection before it reaches the public. Words are edited and still and moving images are cropped and edited to make them more dramatic and interesting.

The media do not exist in a commercial vacuum. Newspapers have to attract readers and advertisers in order to make a profit. Television channels compete with each other for audiences. In the coverage of conflict the boundaries between entertainment and news are becoming increasingly blurred. War is undoubtedly dramatic, but should it also be entertaining?

 
 
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Topic section: The art of war
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War has inspired creativity, from great music to poetry. Though war is the most urgent of news, it can also stimulate timeless reflection on the human condition.  > more

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Topic section: Selling war – the role of propaganda
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War reporting is often been condemned as propaganda. Wide media coverage has created support but also suspicion amongst the general public, as during the Iraq wars. If all reportage involves selectivity, is there a clean line between propaganda and truth?  > more
 
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