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The Vietnam War and the Media

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By the spring of 1965, a substantial number of U.S. combat troops had committed to the war. Upon this happening, The Vietnam War became a subject of large-scale news coverage in the United States. Prior to that time, only a small number of Americans reporters (fewer than two dozen even as late as 1964) were stationed in Indochina. At the height of the war in 1968, the number of reporters and journalist grew tremendously. “There were about 600 accredited journalists of all nationalities in Vietnam, reporting for U.S. wire services, radio and television networks, and the major newspaper chains and news magazines.” Military transportation made readily available to news people by The U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). Many reporters took advantage of this opportunity in order to gain their stories first-hand.

Due to the extent at which the Vietnam War was covered by the news it is often referred to as the “first television war.” The television gradually became prevalent amongst the public at the beginning of World War 2. Near the end of the war, television manufacturing increased. In 1950s, approximately 9% of Americans owned a television in their home. This number drastically increased to approximately 93% in 1961. A was survey conducted in 1964 to determine how people obtained their news. Based on U.S respondents, 58% of them said that they get most of their news from television. Thus during the time period of the Vietnam War, the television became the primary source of news and for people within the U.S.

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New technologies aside from the television were also being developed. For example, new record keeping technologies such as audio recorder and the video camera were developed. Reporters and journalists were able to take better quality photographs and videos with these new and improved technologies. As a result, the government faced the challenge of censoring media for the first time. The inadequate government controls allowed the media to publish uncensored photographs and videos depicting the violence and brutality of the war in Vietnam. This vastly influenced American public opinion.

The role of the media in the Vietnam War has been a subject of controversy. Many believe that the media played a large role in the defeat of the U.S. Some also argue that the media contributed to the undermined support for the war because of negative reports. Uncensored media coverage also provided valuable information to the enemy in Vietnam.


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