Edward W. Said is a well-known Palestinian intellectual who wrote Covering Islam during the 1980s after the Iranian Revolution. This book was the third in a series that sought to critically analyze the West’s understanding of itself and Islam. Covering Islam had three different parts: Islam as News, The Iran Story and Knowledge and Power. Although this book is over 30 years old, Covering Islam is relevant as ever because the perception of Islam is still at the mercy of the media.
Journalism plays a pivotal role in war. During the Vietnam War, the American public became disillusioned with the war after foreign correspondents exposed the human rights violations and human cost of the war through reporting and photojournalism. As a result, war grown into a battle of public relations due to the influence of public opinion by war reporting. The war in El Salvador lasted about 12 years, and the government sought to control the flow of information from foreign correspondents in El Salvador through a system of salvoconducto (safe conduct) that prevented journalists from entering into areas the government deemed “unsafe.” This was one of the many obstacles that foreign correspondents in El Salvador faced as they tried to report the truth as accurately as possible. In War Stories, Mark Pedelty, an anthropologist, studied the practices and methods of foreign correspondents in El Salvador and provided a critical commentary on the shortcomings of the reporting done in El Salvador during the war.
Somewhat ironically Mark Pedelty comes to very many definitive conclusions throughout the book. Pedelty is an anthropologist, but as an anthropologist, one is suppose to observe without judgement. He often labeled or categorized different aspects of the culture of foreign correspondents throughout the book which prevents the readers from drawing their own conclusions from his observations. Instead Pedelty asserts this is what happened. This is what it means. Also this is somewhat ironic because the American journalists that he is studying draw no conclusions in their stories in order to remain objective, one of the prevalent guiding goals of American journalism. Continue reading →