While many journalists were embedded with U.S. military units during the initial invasion of Iraq, today such deployments are few and far between. Today instead, what is often portrayed as reports from "on the ground" are more often what we veterans call "balcony reporting."..
We've gone from 692 journalists embedded with coalition units during the invasion to 32 today, according to the Defense Department. The result is an information void from which the American public cannot fully evaluate the mission.
Some dedicated journalists still feel it imperative to journey out with those fighting this war to see what they see, hear what they hear, and live through what they must live through. And some have paid the same price, through death and injury, that so many of our colleagues in combat have paid. Such committed professionals should be commended and honored.
Yet, with increasing regularity, some in the media position themselves in Baghdad's secure Green Zone or bases established outside of "hot zones." They attempt to interview troops not in the field, but only as they return from missions. Grunts call it the "vulture syndrome," with reporters going from one returning patrol to another hoping to find a unit that has recently been engaged in combat. If there was violence, or there are deaths to be reported, there's interest. If not, if the news is positive, it's of little use and thus not reported.
Wade Zirkle, a combat veteran of the Iraq war and cofounder of VetsforFreedom.org, says journalists don't go out with the troops much any more. Instead, they hang around in the Green Zone and wait for the troops to come back from their missions. With a "vulture syndrome," they travel from unit to unit asking about bad news.