Cronkite Blasts War Pool

Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite last week blasted Pentagon-imposed media restrictions on U.S. journalists in the Persian Gulf, while Dept. of Defense spokesman Pete Williams said the military is considering lifting some of its “pool” reporting requirements.

While a Senate staffer said the nets had been invited, Cronkite was the only tv news personality among a group of print journalists and ex-military officers who testified at the Senate Government Affairs Committee hearing on news media coverage of the Iraqi war.

Cronkite, giving his personal opinions and not representing CBS, said the U.S. military is guilty of “arrogance” for controlling gulf news. Briefings from Saudi Arabia are “ridiculously inadequate,” he said.

Cronkite said media must be allowed to roam the battlefields.

To prevent reporters from broadcasting reports that aid the enemy, Cronkite advocated reinstituting WWII rules that required the media to clear reports with a military censor. Tv cameras would be permitted to cover events, but the satellite uplink capability would be prohibited until reports were cleared.

The Pentagon’s Williams told solons the toughest problems facing journalists in the gulf are access to troops and “hovering” military escorts who have a “stultifying presence” when interviews are conducted.

The U.S. military is considering lifting some pool restrictions on reporters, but Williams dismissed suggestions that the media should be given unlimited access to troops.

According to a Senate staffer, first NBC News prez Michael Gartner, and then the web’s John Chancellor had been expected, but were unable to attend. The staffer said ABC declined to attend, as did CNN’s Bernard Shaw.

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