Bensley: NBC, others had no choice with Arnett

Published 12:12 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A retired television news executive said NBC and others had no choice but to sever ties with a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent.
NBC news officials, along with officials at its affiliate MSNBC and National Geographic, terminated veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett on Monday for comments Arnett made during an interview on Iraqi television.
Arnett, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting during the Vietnam War, apparently told an Iraqi television reporter that initial U.S. war plans had failed and that Iraqi civilian casualties were fueling antiwar sentiment in this country and elsewhere.
Arnett, in an interview on NBC's Today on Monday morning, apologized for his comments and the interview.
Russ Bensley, who with his wife, Pat, raises Morgan horses on their farm in Niles, is a former CBS News executive producer.
Bensley said NBC and MSNBC had "no choice but to terminate Arnett.
Robert Schmuhl, professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame and director of its Gallivan Program in Journalism, Democracy and Ethics, said, "Especially in a situation like this, a reporter has to guard against becoming a part of the story. This is particularly true in the offering of opinion or judgments that might imply a point of view different from what we might consider objective reporting.
Schmuhl said, "At this moment, so much of the coverage in the Mideast seems to be recruiting tapes for the terrorists or Saddam Hussein sympathizers. Unfortunately, his remarks advance that cause."
Particularly in this conflict where television viewers are provided with live coverage of the war as it occurs, reporters can easily become celebrities of sorts, he said.