Embedded Journalists

Image of a reporter embedded with soldiers
Embedded Reporters

Embedded journalists are reporters who travel with troops and report first-hand accounts from the battlefield.

History of Embedded Journalism

Embedded journalists were first used in the 2003 in Operation Iraqi Freedom with approximately 775 reporters and photographers traveling with front line combat troops. The formation of this new arrangement came about through meetings between the heads of news organizations and the Defense Department. The goal was to allow journalists to report from the war zone with the least possible danger. This practice transformed war reporting with unprecedented access to the soldiers, the war, and the ability to file real-time stories along with pictures and video footage from the front.

To become an embedded journalist, these reporters signed contracts with the military. This agreement put limits on what could or could not be reported on, but even with these limitations a new journalistic opportunity was born, giving media unparalleled access to news at the front. These reporters wrote from their first hand observations:

  • battles
  • successes
  • failures
  • soldier stories
  • enemy stories

Ground Rules Established

While getting first-hand news from the front was well-received, embedding journalists with the troops also generated ethical problems for the reporters, their editors and networks. This necessitated a set of ground rules to provide guidance and establish policy and procedure for embedded journalists. These rules permitted reports to have long-term "minimally restrictive access" to troops in the air, on the ground, or at sea. These guidelines stipulated that embedded reporters would live, work and travel as part of the units with which they were embedded to provide in-depth war coverage, and that stories must be factual, whether good or bad. In a sociological study of media coverage of the Iraq war, findings showed that during the first six weeks embedded journalists stationed with American troops highlighted military successes more than they reported consequences of the invasion on the Iraqi citizens.

Types of Embedded Journalists

The types of embedded reporters in the Iraq war can be broken into two major categories:

Reporters Embedded in the Pentagon's Program

The Pentagon designed this program for more than one reason. The first one was to change the military's perception that the press was an enemy and to realize it could be an ally in the dissemination of information. The concept behind the program was simple: Since Saddam Hussein's administration was masterful in the use of disinformation, then these independent observers could work as a countermeasure. Thus, reporters from around the globe joined with American and British troops to observe the war first hand and share what they experienced with the general public.

Freelance Reporters Free to Move About the Country

Freelance reporters also known are as unilateral journalists because they refuse to "embed" with the U.S. military in order to capture day-to-day life as the Iraqis live it. They increase their risk to dangers in the war zone without military association. According to a recent article on Reporters Without Borders, 221 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of the war in Iraq in March 2003, two are still missing, and 14 were kidnapped.

Freelance writers working in Iraq try to adopt a low profile so as not to draw attention to themselves, while others employ security to protect them from the threat of kidnapping. However, working as an embedded freelance journalist brings with it higher risks than those embedded with the military.

Resources For More Information

To learn more from first hand experience from reporters and embedded journalists visit following links:


As with the war, the role of embedded journalists is controversial. So if you're looking for a high-risk, controversial writing gig, this might be just the job you're seeking.

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Embedded Journalists