While one could say I was only doing my job as a journalist and it is no big deal that I just spent the last year and a half regularly traveling to Fort Meade in Maryland to cover proceedings, it is also true that I could have covered this court martial regularly from Chicago, where I am based. I did not have to commit to spending an entire summer living in Washington, DC, so I could cover the trial.
Also, being young, I consider covering Manning’s court martial in its entirety to be one of the first major accomplishments as a journalist. It has introduced me to what it is like to be in a press pool each morning, where one gets to know others working for various media organizations.
It has given me the opportunity to meet multiple whistleblowers and become familiar with their stories. It has also raised my profile, as there have been numerous opportunities to talk on the few radio and Internet television programs that have been giving the case regular attention.
I have spent most of my time interacting with the core group of individuals, like myself, who have been coming here just about every day: independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, Courthouse News reporter Adam Klasfeld, Bradley Manning Support Network reporter Nathan Fuller and Associated Press reporter David Dishneau. Throughout the entire court martial, they have been willing to clarify details or, in some cases, help me work through ideas or opinions I may want to present about what was transpiring.
The core group of reporters that have been here everyday providing the actual reporting that has informed much of the world’s understanding of this case have believed, to some extent, that this is one of the most significant military justice cases in the history of the United States. We’ve talked at length about the finer details of the case and what was important, only to leave each day and realize how little attention it has received in this country from US press that should have been generating much more interest through coverage.
Neither Fuller, Klasfeld, O’Brien or I live in the area nearby Fort Meade. We don’t live in Washington, DC, either, but I presume there are at least 1,000 established and up-and-coming journalists who live in the area that could have been covering the court martial had they found to be as newsworthy as we all did.
I have been exposed to the controlled atmosphere the military will impose on press covering military court proceedings. I witnessed how the rules have become more punitive and restrictive, as each day has passed. While there were leaks of audio and video that led to increased restrictions, some of the rules or procedures in place do not have a reasonable security purpose. [cont’d.]
Image by Clark Stoeckley under Creative Commons license