Conference looks at censorship, ethics of war coverage



By Katie Perkowski and Katie Saltz

As part of the ongoing attention given to wartime, journalists came to campus to discuss the controversy from a different perspective.

Students and journalists came together this weekend for the conference on War, Journalism and History. The conference, themed “Covering conflicts in the modern world,” featured a film series and several panel discussions.

Covering war realistically and informatively in documentaries and movies is one struggle journalists and those in Hollywood deal with, and the topic of one of the conference’s lectures.

Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, co-directors of the film “Meeting Resistance” and Dale Dye, a retired U.S. Marine captain and founder of Warriors, Inc., a California company specializing in training actors for realistic military portrayals, led the discussion.

Dye has worked on 53 films, including “Saving Private Ryan” and the “Band of Brothers” series. Dye said he could teach an actor to appear as a soldier, but to successfully portray one, an actor needs to understand a soldier’s mentality.

Bingham and Connors said their goal in making their film was to document the other side of the Iraq War, such as voices of the citizens.

Bingham and Connors said the difference between their documentary and others is that they did not have a script before they started filming.

“We were explaining the question,” Bingham said. “We hadn’t predicted the answer.”

Honesty is the goal of reporters as well as filmmakers when it comes to war, according to Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent and columnist for the London Independent, who spoke during “First, Do No Harm,” a panel about media ethics in conflict reporting on Saturday.

Fisk said journalists in modern times often censor out the realities of war because Americans may be offended by what they see.

“TV does not show you what we see,” he said. “It doesn’t show you dogs tearing up dead bodies, or blood flowing up over my shoes into my socks from a bleeding boy in the hospital, or a decapitated baby, and these are the realities.”

John Walcott, the Washington bureau chief of McClatchy newspapers, said the main goal a journalist should strive for in covering war is to see the war through the eyes of those who are in the middle of it.

“Understand what makes a person a suicide bomber,” he said. “Understand the war from a different perspective.”

Despite the horrors of witnessing a war zone, Fisk said when covering conflict, journalists have to be in the middle of it to truly convey what is happening.

“Journalism isn’t writing something that some official tells you happens 3,000 miles away,” he said. “It’s reporting what you gather to be the truth, without fear or favor.”