WAR PORN WITH...

WAR PORN WITH A BEAT. There's been some great war reporting coming from NBC, especially from Martin Fletcher, who spent yesterday chasing Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets as they made landfall in Israel, and interviewing the people huddled in nearby shelters.

Here, I'd like to put in a good word for the videographers covering the conflict. It's always the on-air reporters who get the glory when a rocket lands near to the site of their reports, but it's the video guys who are the most exposed -- and without whom those reports would not exist.

Yesterday, as NBC's Richard Engel ducked during a rooftop report while a rocket whizzed overhead, the camera stayed fixed, except to record the visual effects of the rocket's subsequent landing. When Engel returned to the frame, he found himself elevated to the equivalent of this war's Scud stud. (I've yet to find a synonym for "stud" that rhymes with "Katyusha.")

Engel's close encounter occurred during a live report for MSNBC's Scarborough Country, which MSNBC, of course, replayed ad nauseum throughout the evening's broadcasts. To be expected, alas.

What I did not expect, however, was the music video presented as news, complete with a thumping, syncopated beat and ominous-sounding chords that played to some of the day's most gruesome images. This was how host Joe Scarborough closed his show. It was offensive.

It's bad enough that newscasts now brand wars and disasters with slick graphics and their own musical themes. But to present war as entertainment, well, that's just wrong. Ted Koppel got it right when "Nightline" ran the portraits of America's war dead without a musical soundtrack. Back in the day, we watched the Vietnam War on television, with only the sounds of war to accompany the image. And the heart of a nation was moved.

--Adele M. Stan

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