Documentary Expert Lectures on Media in War

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    By Whitney Carlson

    Students learned valuable perspectives on how the media reports the war on terror in a Global Awareness Lecture Wednesday, April 4, 2007.

    Dodge Billingsley, a documentary film producer and director of Combat Films and Research, spoke in the Kennedy Center. He documents security-related topics and has covered conflicts worldwide. In 2002 he won the prestigious Rory Peck award and the Royal Television Society award for a documentary about a battle in Afghanistan.

    Billingsley said the way information is being distributed to the world has been changing, even over just the last five years.

    “We are in the midst of a revolution in media dissemination,” Billingsley said.

    Between 2001 and 2003 there were many changes in the way the media reported war. Before 2003, freelance journalists had to report wars by finding places to upload their media images every night. Billingsley said he had to go to a certain roof in one of his areas in Afghanistan at 2:00 a.m. to upload images back to the bureau.

    In the spring of 2003, the United States entered Iraq with about 660 media personnel embedded with the military. Journalists had to come up with a way to transport their images back to the media headquarters, so after some debate between the military and media channels, the large networks purchased Humvees with a way to provide mobile uplinks for journalists. Today, journalists can upload 30-60 seconds of video every 15 minutes.

    “They allowed all the networks to drive their own vehicles across the border,” Billingsley said.

    Billingsley also said the logistics of war can create problems for those involved with the media. Those that report from a bureau or headquarters are relatively safe and have more of a holistic picture of the war, he said. Those that are embedded in the war have more of a tactical view of the war, but they do not know the whole picture. Sometimes these two different pictures do not mesh together, he said.

    “It”s where you”re sitting,” he said. “There are some interesting differences.”

    Billingsley said the media is often a scapegoat for all sides of an issue.

    “Without exception, every brigade thought the media was out to get them,” Billingsley said of 32 brigades he spoke with.

    Billingsley also said it can be difficult to get those in the media to stay in a location long enough to get a large picture of the war.

    “War does not fit a media deadline,” Billingsley said, adding that there is much potential for the future because of new ways to disseminate information.

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