Journalists set to tell story on all fronts |

Journalists set to tell story on all fronts

Richard Somerville, Editor
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Wars – or periods where war is a threat, as now – are usually times of constant decision-making at news organizations. Add in the terrorism factor, and journalists must keep on their toes.

Here at The Union, we are very conscious that we have readers with strong feelings about supporting President Bush’s pressure on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and equally passionate readers who are opposed to war.

There also are many – maybe even the majority – who fall in between. For instance, many may be opposed to going to war, but also want to be supportive of our friends and neighbors who have been called to military duty.

Who could not sense the emotional seesaw of Mahrya Severson of Grass Valley, who shared a letter from her brother, Zebulon, as part of our “Letters Home” feature that began this week. (We are running excerpts of letters or e-mails from servicemen and servicewomen as we get them; for details, see page A3.)

Mahrya attended the Jan. 18 peace rally in San Francisco along with busloads of others from Nevada County. Her brother is a soldier in Kuwait and an expectant father. After sharing his letter to her, she wrote, “Even though we sit on opposite sides of the same story, I know that both our views are correct.”

After we ran a letter earlier in the week from Marine Lt. Col. G. Sean Metroka to his family in Nevada City, he e-mailed The Union from Kuwait: “I viewed it on and shared it with several of the Marines here. We are all quite pleased to have made the paper there. You have boosted our morale more than you might have imagined.”

On the other hand, among the stories we are preparing in anticipation of potential American invasion in the Mideast is one that looks at what the Peace Center of Nevada County is doing to prepare for that day, if it comes.

Letters to the editor about Iraq are streaming in – more every day – and we’re having to open up extra room on the Opinion page to accommodate them. I have regretfully had to turn away many submissions of Other Voices guest opinion columns because there are too many, and not enough room for them.

Will war come? Who is to say? I would be willing to bet that President Bush himself would prefer that Saddam would fully comply with U.N. inspections or flee the country, to spare him the option of sending American troops into battle.

But if it comes, reporters will be there. For the first time since World War II, journalists will be assigned to combat and support units and will accompany them during the conflict. The New York Times reported that more than 500 reporters, photographers and television crew members will be involved – including those from the Arab network, Al Jazeera.

It is a turnabout from the tight restrictions on coverage that the Pentagon has enforced since the Vietnam war. In Operation Desert Storm, for instance, only a limited number of pool reporters were given regular front-line access. This time, though, both the Pentagon and news executives praised the historic plan.

Whether it will help the readers and viewers to better understand the conflict is anyone’s guess. Certainly, there will be restrictions. Reports of continuing action will be controlled by commanding officers, and any stories about future or postponed or canceled operations will be prohibited. Other ground rules remain to be spelled out.

Meanwhile, here at The Union, we prepare in our own way, developing coverage in ways we believe reflects our community’s viewpoints, diverse as they may be. We’re pretty diverse here ourselves. The publisher, Jeff Ackerman, is a Vietnam vet. I benefitted from a student deferment and a high draft number. On the other hand, a lot of our employees weren’t even born when Saddam Hussein took over Iraq in 1979. But all of us are working to tell you the story from the Nevada County perspective.

Richard Somerville is the editor of The Union. His column appears every Saturday.

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