Feature Media In Wartime

Learn more about the history of the media and war.

Media In Wartime

More from Wes about media in times of war.

How free is the press to cover the military during a war?

Historically, the answer is, it depends.

Despite the first amendment, during the Civil War, the military often kept reporters off the battlefields.

Fifty years later, when the U.S. entered the First World War, the military took control of all radio communications and censored all photographs.

Then Congress passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts, making it illegal to publish anything disrespectful to the government, the flag or the uniforms of American troops.

By the end of the war's first year, 75 U.S. newspapers had lost their mailing privileges or been forced to change their editorial positions.

World War II brought the creation of a military office of censorship.

If the press wanted access, they had to apply for credentials from the office, which meant they had to play ball with the military.

This deal kept stories like the creation of the a-bomb out of the press until after the war.

But things were different in Vietnam.

As the war itself spiraled out of control, restrictions on the press became increasingly lax.

As the anti-war movement grew at home, the American press began to question the war and air their concerns on the nightly news.

From a PR standpoint, Vietnam was a fiasco.

In the wars that followed, the government put a much tighter rein on the press.

For example, both gulf wars have had a tremendous amount of press coverage, but critics fault the media for being more managed by the military than ever before.