Bad Military Reporting

Why can’t major press outlets assign reporters to beats with at least a modicum of knowledge of their subject? This is from an AP story written by Lolita C. Baldor:

For example, about six in 10 West Point soldiers who graduated in 1997 reenlisted after their sixth year. But just 53 percent of those who graduated in 2000 — and likely have spent much of the last six years rotating in and out of the war zones — have signed up for another tour.

Aside from the fact that a difference of perhaps less than 7 percent may not be that big a deal, West Point graduates are commissioned officers. They do not “enlist.” When their initial tours are over, they do not “re-enlist.” Indeed, they don’t do anything in particular. They simply don’t resign.

FILED UNDER: Media, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. just me says:

    I would agree that at the very least reporters covering military matters should either be knowledgable of military matters or take the time to learn what they are reporting.

    The difference between commissioned officers and enlisted isn’t that difficult to learn with a few minutes of research. Shoot a few questions on the differences to those in the know would quickly clear that up.

    Reporters also tend to miss the fact that every person that signs up for miitary duty actually commits to 8 years of service in some combination of active duty and reserves.

  2. William d'Inger says:

    It could be worse. The local newspaper had an editorial cartoon about President Hamilton’s portrait on the $10-bill.

  3. legion says:

    Personally, I’m more concerned with getting a more realistic understanding of the military into Congress & the White House. _Then_ I’ll worry about getting it into the reporters…

  4. David Starr says:

    “Why can’t major press outlets assign reporters to beats with at least a modicum of knowledge of the subject?”
    Answer: There are no reporters with a modicum of knowledge about anything. They are journalism majors. As a class, reporters know nothing about history, politics, economics, military affairs, law, engineering, medicine, science, seafaring, music, aviation, or religion. They take a vow of ignorance upon being hired.