Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Soldier's Perspective


Remember Anderson Cooper and the "360" gangs little trip to Afghanistan in September? Well apparently a serviceman who was stationed there has written about the events that unfolded on September 11 while at the base. From the Pocono Record, here is an excerpt about Cooper and CNN. Click the link to read the article in its entirety.

Later that same day, I received some interesting news that had me guessing whether it would turn out to be an unwelcome burden, or a much-needed diversion from the present grief. I discovered that somehow CNN had discovered the existence of our little outpost.

For whatever reason, the producers of Anderson Cooper's show had decided that our base would make an ideal site to from which to air a few stories on Afghanistan as the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 neared. There was a combined feeling of curious excitement, and annoyance. It was amusing to me to see how some guys would openly criticize the press, and yet seemed genuinely interested in the prospect of appearing on CNN.

I had a sort behind the scenes look at what goes into television productions. A couple of military public affairs officers had showed up before the CNN crew showed up to help us prepare for the upcoming dog and pony show.

Through several meetings, the leadership at the base sorted out some key issues regarding the CNN broadcasts. We had to figure out things like where we would house the crew, how we ensure their safety in the event of an attack, and which soldiers were the most photogenic.

The public affairs officers needed to ensure that we would be sufficiently active to make some good stories, and asked about the details of our scheduled Sept. 11 memorial service. We had a Sept. 11 memorial service planned? Good thing the public affairs officers were there.

The CNN crew arrived, and all personnel on the base went into full Hollywood mode. Soldiers that I hadn't seen wearing a clean uniform in months donned their Sunday best. The dining facility, serving the same menu over and over again, was suddenly cooking like Emeril was in the back kicking it up a notch. For me, at least, CNN's presence was entertaining.

I got to live the outtakes of life. I was rousted from bed one morning so that we could shoot the howitzers. I headed to the fire direction center and was informed that we were waiting to de-conflict overhead airspace with some helicopters in the area.

As I stood there, I kept getting calls from the gun-line asking about the nature of the delay, and how much longer it would take. I didn't know at the time that we were shooting in part for CNN, that the broadcast was already live, and that

Anderson Cooper was desperately trying to cover the time with something interesting to say. Finally running out of verbiage, he was forced to cut to commercial. Eventually, we managed to get coordinated and CNN got the broadcast they were looking for.

The folks from CNN had been making a big deal about our Sept. 11 memorial.

As the entire base formed up for the service, we half-heartedly predicted that the bad-guys would take this opportunity to nail us all at once.

Sure enough, as predicted, just when the cameras went live, we heard the whistle and boom of a rocket striking near the base.

Anderson Cooper's broadcast consisted of an enormous gaggle of soldiers running for cover.

A second attempt at the broadcast later that night would be successful.

Finally, after a few days of excitement, CNN left, and life on the base returned to normal.

I soon returned to my routine, and was left to face the remainder of the deployment. How would I pass the next five months?

8 comentarios:

Christiane said...

"A couple of military public affairs officers had showed up before the CNN crew showed up to help us prepare for the upcoming dog and pony show"

And then they talk and complain about the "media shows" of Hezbollah and Hamas... it is all the same, they play the media and the media likes to be played for access. Im glad you came across this article Jade, the sanitizing efforts of Uncle Sam are rarely exposed. So this is a gem, written by a soldier brave enought to speak out and of a media who is not afraid of the government.
Thanks

Jade said...

Thanks Christine! Wanting to cover stories from all the angles. Hmmm...who does that sound like? LOL.

ivy said...

hi chris!
@ jade, so you're keeping them honest! -lol. I didn't figure out if the author accuses just miitary pr or implying journalists in staging events?
It's one thing in military pr trying to make everything would look in a good light (which I guess is typical for press coverage or high-ranking visits, remember painting leaves green for Queens visit in Alice in Wonderland?), and another if press is invloved in that "preparation" and have "special requests". Is he's saying that the explosion during ceremony was fired by our military? many blogs who don't like ac made fun of that and accused him (or cnn) setting it up for a good shot. Something like that can really undermine journalistic credebility.
If reporters know that they're being seriously set up they should expose it, whatever side it's coming from.

Christiane said...

Hi Ivy! Glad you are back from your Vacay!
About your point,unfortunately it is that way. Producers meet with PR representatives to settle a common ground for the coverage. They do make special requests and many considerations are taken, that not necessarly involves the talent (reporters) the later just follow the instructions. And I have to admit, I think the explotion was staged. The CNN crew - visible in the background - were calm as hell.
And journalist will never expose it, it was make them look good on Camera. Give them heroic proportions in a playard.

Anonymous said...

There was a bit of talk in the media about that explosion being staged. I can also recall one of AC's harshest critics commending him for his calmness and the fact that he kept on talking through the blast commotion. I'd hate to think that CNN would resort to such cheap tactics, but you never know.

ivy said...

@Christiane,
I would want to believe it wasn't staged, i think that wasn't the only shell fired. The author doesn't seem to have any certain clues other then it's a suspicious coincidence. The crew could be calm 'casue explosion was far enough. After all, it's one person's account and I don't necessarily trust anything I read without other sources.

You think cnn producers would go that far to stage something like that? I can understand to ask for howitzers to fire, but to stage an attack?! If it was cnn's idea to stage it, should I believe a host of the show wouldn't know what his producers are doing?

anon 1:09 -- I agree, that would be a cheap trick and going too far. their "How far would you go" segment would sound quite ironic, wouldn't it? Oh, I really hope it's not the case.

lee said...

Ivy, welcome back. I thought you'd disappeared permanently.

It's not unusual for the military to arrange demonstrations for the press such as firing the howitzers. I'm not so sure about the incoming explosion during the memorial service. If it was staged, that was in extremely poor taste.

Public affairs officers are usually present during interviews. The author mentioned selecting the interviewees based on how photogenic they were but I suspect they were really selected based on how likely they were to stick to the approved script on live tv.

courtney01 said...

Disgusting. No wonder there are so many sheep.

MANIFESTO

Don't think for me. Don't assume what I want to hear or read. Give me facts. Give me reasons. But not yours. Bring me debate. Enlighten me. Today, accountability is masked behind anonymity; bylines are hidden by zeros and ones. Everyone publishes; everyone is "in the know." Ethics are non-existent. Speculation is king. The truth is masked and a hostage. Empowered by our minds, WE ARE THE FREAKSPEAKERS!

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