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How did the Tet Offensive help change the media coverage of the Vietnam War?

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Presentation on theme: "How did the Tet Offensive help change the media coverage of the Vietnam War?"— Presentation transcript:

1 How did the Tet Offensive help change the media coverage of the Vietnam War?

2 Lesson objectives To understand the change in media coverage of the Vietnam War. To be able to explain the changes in media coverage of the Vietnam War.

3 Editor of Life Magazine 1965 – ‘The Vietnam War is worth winning’ 1967 – ‘The US is not threatened by the Communists in Vietnam and this war is not worth the lives of young Americans’

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5 Early coverage of the Vietnam War In the early years of the Vietnam War, the media stuck to the official government line. There were some disagreements, but the media largely fell in line up to 1965.

6 Early coverage of the Vietnam War The US Army created MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] which handled media relations and up to 1968 relations were good. In return for MACV assistance, the media promised not to reveal any information that would help the enemy.

7 Harrison Salisbury reports Harrison Salisbury was a New York Times journalist and in December 1966 visited North Vietnam. The first US journalist to do so. He reported on the destruction to civilian areas and the many civilian casualties caused by US bombing. This had always been denied by the US army.

8 The Credibility Gap Harrison was the first of many journalists to question US policy and conduct in Vietnam. These reports helped widen the ‘Credibility Gap’ – the distance between what the US government and army said and what the people believed. The wider the gap the less people believed.

9 1968 – a change in reporting Vietnam Seymour Hersch was the first journalist to break the story of My Lai. Initially, he found it difficult for newspapers and magazines to print his findings. However, with the Tet Offensive, editors became more receptive to covering story showing the US in a dim light despite commercial concerns.

10 1968 – Tet Offensive and the media The Tet Offensive marked the Vietnam War being fought in the cities right under the media’s nose – they could no longer ignore the bad news stories. Journalists began to openly ask difficult questions on the US conduct of the war. The Coverage of the US Embassy siege in Saigon, the summary execution of a VC suspect amongst other stories had a significant impact on the coverage of the war.

11 Impact of Walter Cronkite February 1968 on the Tet Offensive – ‘ What the Hell is going on? I thought we were winning this war’

12 Impact of Walter Cronkite February 1968 on Hue – ‘ This war is unwinnable’

13 Impact of Walter Cronkite February 1968 on Hue – ‘ This war is unwinnable’ If I have lost Walter, I have lost Mr. Average Citizen.

14 Impact of television Television was overtaking newspapers as the most important source for Americans. It provided a more immediate and raw account of the Vietnam War – although it can be edited like newspaper accounts.

15 Impact of media coverage of the Vietnam War Officials like Westmoreland believed the increasingly negative coverage of the war undermined the war effort. Many have supported this view.

16 Impact of media coverage of the Vietnam War American attitudes were turning against the war by 1967 anyway. The media reflected this changing view rather than led it. Growing casualties and war weariness were the reasons why the support for the war dropped not the media. Shocking scenes of violence were rarely shown on US TV. Less than 25% of reports showed dead or wounded. Research shows that between 1965 and 1970 only 76 TV reports out of 2,300 showed heavy fighting. In a sample of 800 broadcasts, only 16% of criticisms of government policy came from journalists.


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