Friday, June 20, 2014

Saigon: lot's of radio some tv


My duties as NBC News correspondent in Saigon....

I didn’t cover much on the TV side.  Because as radio correspondent I had to meet the two circuits seven days a week so I was landlocked in Saigon most of the time.  If there was an interview or story in Saigon that needed both tv and radio I would cover it which allowed Hager and Jones and others to roam the war zone for their stories.  

 “Embedded questions”
  I soon learned how the Pentagon got its points across by using the media. I was assigned to interview a General...but with the proviso that during the TV interview I ask him one very specific question which had been planted by the Pentagon with someone in New York.  So, about halfway through the interview I dealt him the planted question...he answered...and I made the Huntley-Brinkley report on NBC-TV that night.
   Another interesting facet about NBC’s coverage of the war lay in the fact that I was told right off the bat after arriving in Saigon that each time I fed the circuit (reported stories to NYC) which was twice a days a week...I had to include a war story i.e. something about a battle somewhere and causalities.  This was tough at times because some mornings there just wasn’t anything to report.   But I would scratch around and rewrite something from the day before or perhaps write a short piece about a possible engagement forthcoming...just to give the impression there was still a war going on.
   I never really found out the “why” of this rule  at NBC News Saigon...whether it was New York inspired or just a local edict.  There are two possible answers here:
  a.  The brass in New York wanted an antiwar slant a couple of times a day and the best way to get that was an increasing American causality count. (see Iraq coverage)
  b.  The local bureau wanted to insure their continued full staffing so what better way than to pretend there was a big battle everyday. 
 Take your choice.

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