Afghanistan, War and the Media: Frontlines and Deadlines (Abramis 2010) is a new book about journalism and the Afghan War. It contains essays by top war correspondents including Allan Little of the BBC, Stewart Ramsay of Sky News, Alex Thompson of Channel 4 and Vaughan Smith of Frontline News. The practitioners' impressions are mixed with commentary and analysis by academics including the excellent editors, Richard Lance Keeble and John Mair. Huw Edwards wrote the introduction.  I contributed Compromising the First Draft? - an essay covering the history, rules and challenges of embedded reporting.

The book is an innovation in academic publishing. It has been commissioned, edited and printed in just four months. This admirable speed of production means that the contents can be current and relevant rather than abstract and purely theoretical.  Is journalism conveying a complete picture of the war in Afghanistan, or has embedding produced acres of sexed-up boy's own reporting and very little evidence of human suffering? We have ordered multiple copies for the library. It will be useful to 3rd year and MA students studying Richard Pendry's Reporting Conflict module and to everyone interested in the defining conflict of our time.     


I've been impressed by some recent pieces about the war, particularly William Dalrymple's on Afghan history and James Fergusson's in this month's prospect.

As for 'conveying a complete picture' of war, can journalism ever achieve such a thing?

Probably not, John. But it can aspire to a complete picture. Making that effort has, in the past, produced enduring first drafts. My view, as I explain in detail in the essay, is that journalists in Afghanistan are failing to achieve that objective.  I do not question their valour or their integrity , but the balance between independent reporting and the embedded variety  that produced excellence in previous conflicts does not exist in Afghanistan. The absence of security in that country explains why journalists find it so hard to operate independently there. But that explanation does not fill the gap left by the absence of independent correspondents.    

Hope fresher's week goes well!

Important New Book