....Class 05A Operation Iraqi Freedom: Embed / Non-Embed Media Portrays War in Iraq


A content analysis was conducted of network television newscasts during the first three weeks, excluding weekends, of the invasion phase of OIF and three weeks, excluding weekends, during what has turned into an occupation phase of OIF. The analysis focuses on ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN news segments relating to military operations. The news reports were provided by Vanderbilt University. The entire 30-minute (for consistency, only the first 30-minutes of CNN) news broadcasts were analyzed in the 5:30 to 6:00 PM (CST) time slot.

The dates chosen for the invasion phase were (weekdays only) March 20 to April 9, 2003, and (again, weekdays only) November 1 to 19, 2004, for the occupation phase. The 2003 dates selected marked the beginning of the invasion into Iraq up until April 9, when journalists coined “The Fall of Baghdad,” which was symbolized by the fall of the statue of Saddam Hussein and considered as the end of the invasion phase of the war. Since the invasion phase ran the course of 15 days, the same number of days was selected for the analysis of the occupation phase to provide an equivalent comparison between the invasion and occupation phases. Later dates were chosen based upon embedded numbers attained from the Department of Defense (DoD). The numbers had increased to 96, which was the highest number of embeds since the invasion.

The unit of analysis was each single report by a broadcast journalist about a person, unit, or event with a clear beginning, middle, and end. A unit of analysis commenced with the anchor introducing a story and then either turning to an embedded or non-embedded correspondent, or showing video of OIF while the anchor reported in support of the video. The ending of each unit of analysis was defined as when an embedded or non-embedded journalist “signed off” (“John Smith, CNN, Fullujah”) or the anchor clearly displayed that the story was over.

Five DoD public affairs personnel and one Department of Defense officers serving in managerial positions, who were all enrolled in the Joint Communication Course at the University of Oklahoma, conducted the content analysis. Coding norms were established during supervised training sessions conducted using network newscasts about combat operations outside of the two 15-day windows of the study. The coders established a high degree of standardization to the coding process resulting in preliminary values of inter-coder reliability greater than .95. To avoid difficulty in determining the start and end of many segments, coders worked together to make this determination. This eliminated errors in judgment and ensured coders were aware of the exact length of each segment measured. Then, coders worked separately. Coders are veteran media analysts with a combined experience of more than 90 years working in the public relations and broadcast media field. The effective inter-coder reliability ratings (Rosenthal, 1984, 1987) are reported below, following descriptions of each dependent variable.

The independent variable featured in the investigation was news correspondent status, which was coded based on information provided about unit as embedded, non-embedded (termed “unilateral” during OIF), or unknown. An embedded reporter is defined in the literature as a media representative remaining with a unit on an extended basis (SECDEF, 2003). Coders distinguished between embedded and non-embedded correspondents based on information that was provided by the news anchor. In some instances, it was unclear whether the correspondent was embedded or non-embedded, in which case they were coded as unknown.

The investigation featured six dependent variables. Overall tone of coverage toward the military was assessed with a global attitude measure adapted from Burgoon, Cohen, Miller, and Montgomery (1978). It consisted of six 7-interval scales, including: good/bad, positive/negative, wise/foolish, valuable/worthless, favorable/unfavorable, and acceptable/unacceptable. The inter-coder reliability rating of this measure was TBD (a=???). Depiction of the trustworthiness of the troops covered in news reports was assessed using the Individualized Trust Scale (ITS), which was initially developed by Wheelus and Grotz (1977) based on four 5-interval scales. The ITS was adapted to 7-interval scales for this investigation. Specific items included: honest/dishonest, trusting/untrusting, candid/deceptive, and sincere/insincere. Inter-coder reliability was TBD (a=???).

The extent to which each unit employed framing was measured with a single 7-interval scale: episodic/thematic. The scale used previously was Pfau, Haigh, Gettle, Donnelly, Scott, Warr and Wittenberg. (2004). The measure achieved an inter-coder reliability rating of TBD (a=???).
Affect conveyed in each story unit was measured using eight 7-interval items developed by Dillard and colleagues to assess the affective dimensions of happiness and contentment (Dillard, Solomon and Samp, 1996). The 0-6-interval scales measured the extent to which a unit of analysis conveyed happiness (happy, cheerful, elated, and joyful) and contentment (mellow, tranquil, peaceful, and contented). Inter-coder reliability ratings were: happiness, TBD (a=???), and contentment, TBD (a=???).

The extent to which military members depicted in story units conveyed positive relational communication was assessed using 7-interval scales developed by Burgoon and Hale (1987). Dimensions and scale items employed in this investigation were: immediacy/affection (expression of enthusiasm, involvement, and warmth), similarity/depth (expression of similarity, friendliness, and caring), and receptivity/trust (expression of interest, receptiveness, sincerity, and honesty) (Burgoon & Hale, 1987). When no military member was shown, coders reported a score of “undetermined,” thus resulting in a much smaller a for the relational communication measures. Inter-coder reliability ratings for relational communication were: immediacy/affection, TBD (a=???); similarity/depth, TBD (a=???); and receptivity/trust, TBD (a=???).

Finally, the organization commitment of the journalists to the military was measured using a modified version of the 7-interval scale of an eight-item index developed by O’Reilly and Chatman (1986) as cited in Fields (2002). It uses 12 items to describe three dimensions of organizational commitment: (1) internalization, defined as an employee adopting the organization’s mission as the employee’s own; (2) identification, defined as the employee’s belief that the organization’s values are similar to the employee’s; and (3) compliance, defined as continuing to remain an organization member because costs of changing are too high.

The modified scale used a three-item index for this investigation and only looked at identification and internalization of the organizational commitment by the journalists. The modified scale measured the extent of agreement/disagreement among coders as to: what the military stands for is important to the journalist; the journalist talks up the military as a great organization; since becoming embedded; and the journalists feel a sense of involvement with the military rather than that of an outsider. Responses are obtained on a 7-point Likert-type scale where 1=strongly disagree and 7=strongly agree.