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Opinion

Burriss on Media: D-day

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By Dr. Larry Burriss, MTSU

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wmot/local-wmot-973066.mp3

Murfreesboro, TN – As most of the United States and Western Europe celebrate the anniversary of D-Day this week, we might also take a look at how the invasion was covered by the news media of the day. In some ways, coverage was a whole lot different than it is today, yet, in other ways, it was remarkably the same.

Back in 19-44, D-Day saw a lot less formal censorship than we have today. Reporters were almost part of the army, and were in the landing craft that hit Omaha and Utah beaches. They wore uniforms and lived with the troops, but they were independent.

Censorship itself was an informal affair, with reporters for the most part voluntarily following guidelines that were established between the news media and the military.

There were, of course, the usual complaints about lack of access by reporters, and the usual fears that the media were giving away secrets.

Perhaps the most unusual incident occurred when a newspaper crossword puzzle editor included the names of the landing beaches as answers to the puzzle. It turned out to be completely coincidental that the names Utah, Omaha and Juno were in the puzzle, but it nevertheless caused some anxious moments, as officials were sure the puzzle was a message to the Germans.

Days and weeks later, as the invasion forces pushed their way deeper and deeper into Europe, reporters went right along with them.

Perhaps the best example of the love-hate relationship was that of General George Patton. In many ways, Patton was a product of the media: he was flamboyant, colorful, and knew exactly how to get the press coverage he wanted. Yet his downfall was brought about by misunderstandings and by reporters perhaps too eager to use a colorful, but perhaps inaccurate quote.

The news media today are helping all of us relive those events of nearly 70 years ago. And that history is a reminder that press freedom is one of the values those soldiers were fighting, and dying for. And we should salute them.

I'm Larry Burriss