Judge David Johnson promises a non-partisan review.
Stories from the front.
When the U.S. bitch-slapped Saddam Hussein, there was an orgy of media coverage. This is not new, of course, in times of armed conflict; however, what was ushered in with this first war of the 21st century was a new approach to news coverage: embedded reporters.
Journalists were inserted into military units and given unprecedented access to the goings-on of battle. With this two-disc set, Koch Vision presents a comprehensive collection of the ABC News coverage of the war, spanning four divisions of the U.S. military: Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines.
Each disc contains two of the divisions (Disc One: Army and Air Force; Disc Two: Navy and Marines), and each division is broken into separate programs. The programs highlight the specific companies with which the journalists were embedded. The respective journalist acts as the narrator/guide for the program, filling in background and adding commentary to complement the filmed action.
This is a nice touch, as it allows the viewer deeper access into the reporters' experiences. Journalists Ted Koppel, Don Dahler, Jim Sciutto, Stephanie Gosk, Tamala Edwards, Bob Woodruff, Mike Cerre, John Berman, Ron Claiborne, and Matt Frucci will escort you through their experiences. Each segment is divided into separate chapters, which aid in making the programs cohesive narratives. The chapter approach is also useful in navigating through the different segments.
In general, the stories are interesting, personal, and revealing. Whether it's Koppel's veteran-like approach, which elicits a tangible sense of respect from the men in uniform (his rapport with General Blount, and Blount's confession that he completely trusts Koppel's judgment with what gets broadcasted is indicative of this), or one reporter pissing and moaning over the criticisms of a special forces commander over what should be broadcast ("He's not my editor!"), each story has a distinct personality.
The soldiers' personalities come through as well, sometime painfully so. A few of the men who are profiled don't make it home—especially potent, given their comments about homesickness.
ABC News does a good job of balancing the pain of war with thoughts and statements from the soldiers about the necessity of war, however distasteful, to bring about important changes.
The variety of the segments rounds out the perspective of combat. Traveling with the Army, the "spear" gunning for Baghdad, results in different stories than riding with the USS Harry S Truman battle group through the Suez Canal, or reporting from the attack choppers of the elite 101st Airborne, or joining the ranks of the Patriot missile battalion at the head of the convoy.
One criticism that I levy at this set is the sense of self-importance the reporters sometimes have. Sometimes it felt like I was watching excerpts from an MTV My Video Diary.
Substantively, this set succeeds in providing different angles and different perceptions of modern-era combat. Stylistically, it blows. The interface is up to tenth-grade technology class standards. Honestly, I think I could put together this menu system with my start-up version of Pinnacle. Digging deeper into the technical aspects of the discs reveals dog poop in the sand. A full-frame transfer of piss-poor quality awaits you. Worse is the sound. The stereo mix is hollow and just sounds chintzy. No extras.
Sorry, Koch Vision, but this is no way to respect the troops.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
• ABC News
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