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Military reporters join forces to fight access restrictions

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering         Oct 23, 2002    

Military reporters join forces to fight access restrictions

  • Concerned with restricted access, a group of military reporters formed Military Reporters and Editors, an educational and resource organization, which will hold its first meeting in November in Washington, D.C.

As America wages the war on terrorism and moves toward conflict in Iraq, military journalists face increased restrictions to information and interviews. In response to those and other issues they face, a group of journalists recently joined forces to form Military Reporters and Editors.

The organization, incorporated in Seattle, Wash., with offices in San Antonio and Washington, D.C., was established by national and regional reporters who were concerned about tightened access to troops at home and aboard.

“Beat writers have a high regard for the military and generally have good relationships with troops and their commanders. MREs wants readers to better know the troops as they perform their duties in difficult circumstances, frequently far from home,” said MREs treasurer and secretary, Sig Christenson, military writer for the San Antonio Express-News in a recent statement from the group.

“We’ve seen numerous cases where the Pentagon has restricted our ability to report on the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who serve the people of this nation,” said James G. Wright, the group’s president and assistant metro editor with The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “MREs wants to ensure that media access improves as the United States wages its war on terrorism. The

people of this country deserve nothing less.”

Sharing the acronym of Meals Ready-to-Eat, MREs will serve as a resource for journalists covering the military. The group’s charter states: “[The] association exists to advance public understanding of the military, national security and homeland defense.”

The Baltimore Sun’s Pentagon reporter, Tom Bowman, a nine-year veteran of covering the Naval Academy and Pentagon, said he and others fear the access issues are a bad omen.

“I guess what a lot of us worry about is if that’s the standard — what we had in Afghanistan — what it’s going to be like should U.S. forces go into Iraq?” he said. “What kind of access will we have, if any, to the troops there? I think a lot of us are worried about that.”

Bowman’s question as well as other issues will be addressed when MREs holds its first conference Nov. 15-16 in Washington, D.C.

Speakers include Pulitzer Prize finalist David Wood, national security correspondent with Newhouse News Service and Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. More information on the conference is available at www.poynter.org/offthenews/NextWar.htm.

JL


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