Pentagon Tracks, Rates Reporters “Neutral to Positive”

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Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military’s independent newspaper, has a zinger of a scoop today:

WASHINGTON — Contrary to the insistence of Pentagon officials this week that they are not rating the work of reporters covering U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes has obtained documents that prove that reporters’ coverage is being graded as “positive,” “neutral” or “negative.”

Moreover, the documents — recent confidential profiles of the work of individual reporters prepared by a Pentagon contractor — indicate that the ratings are intended to help Pentagon image-makers manipulate the types of stories that reporters produce while they are embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

One reporter on the staff of one of America’s pre-eminent newspapers is rated in a Pentagon report as “neutral to positive” in his coverage of the U.S. military. Any negative stories he writes “could possibly be neutralized” by feeding him mitigating quotes from military officials.

Keep reading the whole story here. It is worth it. Among other things, the reporters, Charlie Reed, Kevin Baron and Leo Shane III, make it clear that both the Pentagon’s spokesman, Bryan Whitman, and the consulting firm doing the work, the Rendon Group, have been saying things in public that do not match up with the documents the newspaper obtained.

The Pentagon has now announced that it is reviewing the practice of compiling reporter profiles.