War: Should reporting be on a need to know basis?

I can remember sitting down with friends for dinner, the first time I saw it. It lit up my TV and in truth, I was horrified watching it. It was 1990 and this was the first time, we had truly been exposed to war through the media. For the next six months, our lives were saturated with it. Since then, reporting and coverage of war has been commonplace in our lives.

Phillip Knightely the author of The First Casualty, identified differences of the media coverage of war in his book and said, “The sad truth is that in the new millennium, government propaganda prepares its citizens for war so skilfully that it is quite likely that they do not want the truthful, objective and balanced reporting that good war correspondents once did their best to provide.”

Just this week I turned on the television to watch one of the morning news programs and spent the next half an hour listening to details about Australia’s involvement in the fight against IS. Australia had, for the first time, conducted air raids using two Australian air force super hornets.

Now, I’m not ignorant enough to not understand that families with their loved ones over there need to know what is happening and when. But, I feel like for us, the rest of the general public, war should only be reported on a need to know basis.

Why? Because it doesn’t control every part of our life. In fact, when I learned that we had conducted air raids, my life or thoughts didn’t change at all, simply because it had no impact on my selfish self at all. And then, like Phillip Kightely mentioned, what is the real purpose behind giving us so much information. At the end of the day we still have the question lingering over our heads – is this all of the information? If they’re sharing this, then what are they really leaving out?

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Over the last few decades, the media has become less and less interested in the human connection in journalism and more interested in the propaganda and ability to influence and manipulate the public. And, we have all come to accept that this is just a part of life. But when the big question is war, I begin to feel that the ethical boundaries are totally crossed.

War is something that whether right, wrong, good or bad, hurts people. People that don’t deserve to be hurt, and that is sadly always the case. So why do we allow people to take advantage of our human emotion that is attached and connected to this?

I believe that war should be reported on a need to know basis. I believe that this needs to be regulated and the governments around the world need to respect that war is not entertaining, and it isn’t something to take advantage of. It isn’t something we should let be manipulated to someone’s advantage. When something happens of significance – that marks either a great win or a great tragedy, that is when we need to know. If something happens that will directly influence our lives, that is when we need to know.

Otherwise, I think the media is taking advantage of a spectacle that shouldn’t be happening in the first place.

Tell us today, what do you think about media coverage of war? Should it be reported on a “need to know basis” and nothing else? Do you think people use war and the media to manipulate and influence us? Share your thoughts in the comments below…