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BAO CHI: THE AMERICAN NEWS MEDIA IN VIETNAM, 1960-1975

FRANCIS DONALD FAULKNER, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Abstract

This study of American news media coverage of the Vietnam War, detailed chronologically, demonstrates the fractionalization of the Saigon press corps, the government tactics to obfruscate communication and the problems of journalists operating within the commercial confines of their craft.^ As institutions, the American news media and the U.S. military never demonstrated that they knew what to do in Vietnam, so they did what they knew how to do. The military experimented with firepower at the expense of civic action programs, while the journalists covered the action and generally ignored analysis, interpretation or investigative reporting. Vietnam was covered mostly as a sports event or a police beat, with many brave, but few intellectually aggressive reporters challenging the basic premise of the war or receiving any encouragement to do so from editors in the United States.^ Throughout the 15-year American phase of the revolution in Vietnam, the news media reacted to actions and statements by government spokesmen in both Washington and Saigon, and rarely initiated the agenda for reportage. This was caused by six main factors. The journalistic philosophy that reporting reflects the social environment and generally does not advocate pro-social behavior or function as commercial aspects of American journalism which, in conjunction with the gate-keeping functions integral to the process and the use of material by news agency and network clients, severely confined the press corps in Indochina to covering news events and topics to which it had easy access. The professional expertise of press corps members was diversified and many did not substantive background in either Vietnam or military tactics. The massive amounts of information disseminated by the U.S. government could not be analyzed rapidly by the limited bureau staffs in Saigon and resulted in limited interpretative articles which competed with more colorful and timely reports which were usually initiated by the government. The failure of professional journalistic organizations in the United States to consistently support efforts by reporters in Saigon during their struggle to make the American government more accountable for its actions or any institutional journalistic attempt to mount a lobbying effort on behalf of the reporters to pressure the government into adopting a more liberal information policy. The public confusion caused by the inconsistency of news organizations in transmitting reports from Indochina while simultaneously disseminating conflicting reports without properly analyzing the divergent views or including the incongruent statements and interpretation. ^

Subject Area

Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

FRANCIS DONALD FAULKNER, "BAO CHI: THE AMERICAN NEWS MEDIA IN VIETNAM, 1960-1975" (January 1, 1981). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI8110327.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI8110327

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