Discussion


This study provided further insight into newspaper reporting from journalists embedded with military units during combat operations. Specifically, the study examines the impact that embedding had on news reports about the war in Iraq, both differences in news stories reported during the initial invasion phase, as well as those reported more than a year later during the occupation/resistance phase.
Newspaper coverage by embedded reporters during the invasion and occupation were significantly more positive toward the military than those of non-embedded reporters. In addition, reports of combat operations from embedded reporters depicted more episodic frames and were judged to be more authoritative than those of non-embedded reporters. Surprisingly, newspaper stories by embedded reporters were not found to contain more emotion than those from non-embedded reporters.
As reported earlier, several univariate tests supported the hypothesis that embedded news reports of combat operations are more positive about the military and convey greater trust toward military personnel. Embedded journalists almost certainly move more rapidly through the social penetration process with the members of their military unit because of the stressful combat situation they are placed in (Pfau et. al, in press). The study suggests that as these relationships progress and the journalists begin to identify with their units, the journalists feel a greater sense of camaraderie. Additionally, because of the situation, the journalist must trust and depend on the military for food, transportation, and protection. This trust seems to grow and carry over into the newspaper articles the journalists write. One might argue that this might lead to bias or a conflict of interest. If a reporter feels close to the people he or she is writing about, it might be possible that bias might be present in his work.
These findings confirm previous research that examined the differences in newspaper coverage between embedded and non-embedded reporters during the first five days of the war in Iraq and found that embedded journalists covered the conflict in a more positive way than did their non-embedded counterparts.
Hypothesis 2 posited that embedded newspaper news reports of combat operations would contain more episode framing and was also supported, as illustrated in table 1. Iyengar (1991) stated that thematic framing requires in-depth, interpretive analysis, which would take longer to prepare and would be more susceptible to charges of journalistic bias. Embedded reporters seemed to be seeking to present a quick on-the-scene portrayal of the events they were covering in a combat zone. They may have been seeking to provide a more visually stimulating story of war, and also probably did not have had the time to present a more in-depth, interpretive analysis of the story. Again, these findings support the research of Pfau et. al (2004) that found that the embedding process resulted in episodic framing of news stories for both television and print.
It could be argued that this was a drawback to the coverage of embedded reporters. However, this argument is weak because there is always an abundance of stories from embedded and non-embedded reporters resulting in both episodic and thematic framed stories. As a result, the presence of embedded media and may have provided a better balance of news coverage that would have been available without embedded reporters.
The study also supported Hypotheses 4 which posited that embedded news reports would manifest a greater use of authoritativeness both during the invasion and occupation phase of the conflict. As stated earlier, one key aspect of source credibility is the authoritativeness (or expertise) of the source of the message (Carlson, 1995; Goldsmith, et al, 2000). Stories coming from the heart of the action where the reporter can get a first-hand view of the events written about were judged to be more authoritative. The embedded reporters are eating, sleeping, training, and traveling with military units and experiencing events as they happen. This gives them more credibility as they are perceived to have a high degree of knowledge and expertise about military operations.
The prediction that embedded newspaper stories would contain more emotion compared to non-embedded was not supported. As reported earlier, no significant differences were found for any of the five emotions looked at. In addition, the study failed to elicit any emotion at all from any of the articles coded. This finding is surprising, and might be due to the limitations of the study. Only negative emotions were measured, and there was a considerable amount of time between the publication of the article and its analysis. More significantly, the study did not include photographs with the article for analysis. Inability to actually see what is being described in a news article, especially with the more emotion laden events, almost certainly impacted the findings of the study.
Limitations
With any study, there are some limitations. The lack of positive emotions on the scale based on the previous work of Dillard and colleagues (Dillard, et. al., 1996) is one limitation of this study. Emotions featured included only negative emotions: anger, surprise, puzzled, sad, and fear. Consequently, positive emotions such as happy, proud, and excitement were omitted. The researchers decided to include only negative emotions because they felt stories about a war would elicit negative emotions. However, many of the articles featured very positive stories about the work our military forces were doing in and around Iraq and may have elicited positive emotions from the reader. Additionally, as embedded reporters become close with the military units they are with and begin to identify with them more, the positive emotions they feel might be evident in the stories they write. Future researchers should include positive emotions when evaluating newspaper coverage of war.
It is important to consider, however, that the findings may not have been significantly different even if positive emotions had been included on the scale. The study did not only fail to show a difference of emotion elicited from embedded reporters versus non-embedded reporters; it failed to elicit any emotion at all. As stated earlier, this is probably due to additional limitations of the study.
The time between the publication of the articles coded and the analysis of the article is one additional limitation. The dates chosen for the invasion phase were March 20 to April 9, 2003, more than two years ago. It is possible that the articles may have been viewed differently if they were analyzed during the heightened tensions of the time in which they were written.
Another limitation in this research was potential bias of the coders. The coders were all work for the Department of Defense, and have been trained in military public affairs. Because of their affiliation with and loyalty to the military, the coders’ views may have been biased toward coverage of military and combat operations in the articles. The coders were not aware of the literature and hypothesis but they still had a bias about the military if not specific to the study’s predictions.
Failing to include photos in the study was an extremely noteworthy limitation. The full text articles retrieved from the Newsbank Full Text Newspapers did not include the photos that ran with the articles. One benefit of having stories filed from the heat of the action is the ability to include photos of the events being described. The battlefield is something most people will never see firsthand, and the seeing photos from the action may have elicited more emotion from the coders. Future researcher should include examining the photos that ran with the articles.
Fewer articles from embedded reporters available for coding during the occupation phase was an additional limitation. The dates chosen for the occupation phase were November 1 to 21, 2004. As a result, many of the articles selected were about the 2004 United States Presidential election on November 2 and only four articles coded were written by embedded reporters. The generalizability of findings from only four articles is extremely limited. Due to time restrictions, the sample was stratified and only articles from every 3rd date analyzed. This might have an impact on number of embed reports, and two dates of the set examined were negatively impacted by election coverage as previously stated.

Conclusion

The goal of this study was to look at how the media embedding affected news coverage of OIF. Specifically, this study compares the coverage of embedded and non-embedded journalists during the first 21 days of the conflict and 21 days during the occupation phase. Despite its limitations, the study fully supported a majority of the hypotheses and the results of our analysis are generalizable well beyond the seemingly limited scope of our study. The topic of this study is worthy of more in-depth research, with the most effective research looking at articles as they are published and allowing for a broader spectrum of emotion.