Embedded in a warzone – Media Futures with war correspondent Matthew Green
November 16th, 2016
by Third Year Broadcast Journalism student, Emily Wilkes
On Tuesday 11th October, students from the school of Media and Communication gathered for a lecture with guest speaker Matt Green. Matt is a journalist, and most well known for his work as a war correspondent.
He first discussed starting out as a young journalist for Reuters, before being embedded in the US Army during the invasion of Iraq. He made the point that when you are a journalist, you must report from more than one perspective, the audience does not just want the journalists’ voice in a news piece. Therefore, Matt noted, as well as being embedded in the army, in the full army uniform, he also made the effort to put on civilian clothing to interact with the local Kandahari people. It is this effort that brings a journalist closer to their contributor, and is an effective way of interacting with different groups.
Matt Green also discussed, in brief, two of the books he has published, during his career as a journalist. The first follows his journey through Africa to meet Ugandan religious leader Joseph Kony, called “The Wizard of the Nile”. Green’s second, and most recent book follows the struggles of British soldiers after fighting in the Falklands and Northern Ireland, to name a few. Their untold stories surround the issues of mental health and alcoholism that arose when they returned from the frontline, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He cited part of his book where he spoke to a head psychiatrist in the military, who informed him that 90% of soldiers with mental health problems don’t come forward.
The talk itself was short, but the discussion was opened up to questions from students. When asked if being embedded can affect the independence of reporting, Green agreed that when going through hostile territory with an army, you do almost feel like a fellow combatant. He also said, soldiers use embedded reporters as an emotional outlet, often discussing their personal lives with them, which they maybe don’t want to discuss with fellow soldiers. In this way, a journalist can become very close to the people they are embedded with and therefore the independence of the report could be affected.
When questioned about his role as a freelance war correspondent, Green explained that it is unlikely that you will see journalists from big corporations embedded in war torn countries, and therefore this opens up the market to freelancers, who may be more willing to take big risks, while large corporations are more risk averse and health and safety conscious. This also means however, that big corporations are often using the content of a few embedded journalists. Green did agree that this could create an issue of the lack of diversity in stories and that it is something that needs to be considered, but argued that quite often journalists would report on the same stories similarly anyway.