924 – Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam news media coverage

A CBS camera crew, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

A CBS camera crew interviewing American soldiers in Vietnam in 1967. Credit Tim Page/Corbis, via Getty Images

In this episode, number 924, of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast another one of the factors that make the Vietnam War and “upside down” affair when compared to previous conflicts this country has partaken in will be covered. The factor discussed will be news coverage of the War. An opinion piece in The New York Times titled: Lyndon Johnson’s Living Room War that was submitted by Chester Pach, a professor of history at Ohio University sets the stage for the coverage.

In World War II and the Korean War the military maintained a heavy hand over journalists. They had to submit their stories to military censors for clearance. In Vietnam there was a 180 degree turn in public information policy. Reporters were allowed a free rein to go wherever they wanted and report whatever that saw. It was thought by information officers that developing good working relationships with journalists and relying on a policy of “maximum candor consistent with security considerations” would be a better policy.

The Vietnam War became the first televised war that brought live, real time action into American living rooms. In 1967 the policy of openness with news coverage of the war began to have some unfavorable consequences for President Johnson. He became obsessed with how television covered the war.

The president favored ABC’s coverage over that of CBS and NBC.  He once proclaimed he believed  CBS and NBC were “controlled by the Vietcong.” It worried Johnson that Vietnam was the first war during which a majority of Americans relied on television as their main source of news. He blamed the media for the erosion in support for the war by the American public.

That erosion of support for the war led him to forego running for a second term. Here Pach’s complete opinion piece in episode 294 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

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