Since July, when the first convoy of Kuwaiti oil tankers flying newly issued American flags steamed under U. S. naval escort through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, dozens of U. S. journalists have come on board ships of the U. S. Middle East Joint Task Force.
For reporters accustomed to covering the Gulf escort operation from afar, the exposure to the fleet has been invaluable. But the method of exposing the press to the U. S. Navy’s operations in the Gulf leaves room for improvement.
The pool, originally intended as a last resort for providing prompt media coverage of major military operations without compromising operational security, has been distorted in the Gulf to become the first resort for covering routine operations.
A better system would be to adopt what people familiar with press coverage of military operations call “unilateral plus.” The idea is that reporters should frequently visit ships on a unilateral basis, operating singly and writing only for their own organizations. In an emergency, the Pentagon could quickly draft these correspondents into a team working on behalf of the entire press corps.