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Journalists Offer Dramatic War Coverage, But Don't Tell Whole Story

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A firefight between U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers was captured on tape by a CBS photographer traveling with the troops.

Journalists covering this war are so close to the action, they can talk to soldiers while they're fighting.

Pictures from the front lines make for dramatic news coverage. But retired Army Capt. Craig Marks says they don't tell the entire story.

"As to the heaviest of the firepower, we're probably seeing 60 percent," Marks said. "As to the total conflict, we're probably seeing half of what's going on."

Marks says the U.S. military granted the media unprecedented access to the war for two reasons:

"There's a portion for our consumption," he said, "but there's also a portion that we're trying to win over the hearts and minds of the Arab world that we're not invading conquerors."

Philip Meyer teaches journalism ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He agrees that the media is part of the U.S. miltary's propoganda campaign. But he also believes journalists play an important role as witnesses to the war.

"When the Iraqis put out stories about the military destroying civilians," Meyer said, "there are going to be journalists there from all over the world to say that didn't happen."

In an age of instant access, the war images being brought to the public don't provide much perspective. But Meyer said it's the job of historians to sort through what people are seeing and give it all meaning.

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