The Newseum in Washington DC has a new exhibit on the 6th floor on Reporting the War in Vietnam, including an 8-minute short film that shows the way network broadcast media presented the War, with some emphasis on CBS and Walter Cronkite. I visited the exhibit today after the AUDSWalk nearby.
The Vietnam War was the first war to be regularized “televised” into American living rooms almost every day after about 1966. At first, the press was somewhat supportive, and the Army looked upon the presence of war correspondents as increasing the pressure on the enemy. But then some networks, especially CBS, began to show misdeeds by troops, including the burning of Vietnamese villages (as well as My Lai). At one point, Lyndon Johnson even called Walter Cronkite and said that he (LBJ) was disappointed by the press’s lack of complicity.
After the Tet Offensive, on January 31, 2015, reporting from the networks became more “sober” with emphasis on casualties but less homage to the bravery of soldiers, many of whom had been drafted.
The public began to resist the war as casualties mounted.
It would be a good thing if the Newseum presentation covered the issue of the military draft and deferments more. But this side of the war probably didn’t get as much coverage from the networks as did the War itself. On campuses, it was the cause for great controversy.