Role Of Media During Vietnam War

Table of Contents

Identification and evaluation of sources


Thinking back on one’s experiences

Source Evaluation and Identification

This essay will use four main sources to examine the relationship between the media’s coverage of events and those that occurred during the Vietnam War. Reporting Vietnam – Media & Military as War by William M. Hammond. This source focuses primarily on documenting, analyzing and comparing different aspects of Vietnam’s reporting. This source claims that the agencies in charge of handling information and reporting at the start of the war did not have a lot of control over the way the media presented the war and the limitations set up for the media to come out of war efforts. Hammond points out that this was an important factor in portraying the Vietnam War and the interests of America. This source evaluates and questions the motivations and interests of reporters, and claims that initially, the media represented the government. They were trying to show the possible rise of communism, and its effects in Vietnam. This source has a special importance for understanding the fundamental causes of the Vietnam War’s escalation.

The Uncensored War The Media And Vietnam by Daniel C. Hallin was the source for the following information. Hallin examines American journalism and its impact on politics, war, and governance in this book. This essay highlights various studies conducted at the time that demonstrated the influence and power of the media, as well as how it was utilized to shape public opinion in relation to certain social problems. Hallin summarizes how media representations of the war evolved as the conflict progressed. Hallin’s points of view are nicely summarized, and this source draws on various aspects of war that are seldom considered in depth. For example, the portrayal and reactions of viewers to televised violence. This source, therefore, is very important as it describes in detail how the media distorted these particular stories in order to affect the war effort.

Ron Stienmann has written Inside Television’s First War, which is also based on this theme. This source explores the role of television in the perception surrounding the Vietnam War. This source is important because it shows how television was a major media outlet during this period. It also shows what impact this had on the public. In a survey done in 1964, more than 58% said that the majority of news they receive comes from television. As a result of this, television became the main news source for Americans during the war. Stienmann points out that the Tet Offensive and other key events were covered in great detail on national television. The public’s views changed dramatically after seeing the events unfold in Vietnam. Steinmann is very thorough in his analysis and articulation of the impact TV had on the public.

The War Managers by Douglas Kinnard is the last source to be used. The source is significant because it provides a view from a general, Douglas Kinnard. Kinnard’s platform allows him to show the many ways in which the Vietnam War failed, and what led to the collapse of public support. The book is filled with reports from members of the Armed Forces and extensive interviews that shed light on a common consensus concerning the Vietnam war. This assessment is characterized by the ability of the media to react to events as they happened and the way in which the public could absorb this information without filtering. This source uses this as an important attribute to explain why the Vietnam war received so much scrutiny and how media portrayal of events affected the outcome of the conflict.

InvestigationAs shown by these sources, the first reaction of media to conflicts in Vietnam centered around investigating communist influences, and also the Cold War’s nature, and its conduct in foreign lands such as Vietnam. At first, the conflict appeared to be an American initiative to combat communism across the globe, as well as to limit the impact of China and Russia. The administration had a large influence on how the war was presented and reported. This was mostly based on their view of Cold War conditions. Ngo Dinh Diem was the newly-elected South Vietnamese President at the time. His focus was on his anticommunist tendencies. Yet, it was severely affected when several citizens lost their lives in an attempt to overthrow Diem toward the end 1960.

Due to how quickly the conflict escalated, a number of reporters began to travel to Saigon and report directly on the situation. The American intention at the time seemed to be to monitor and assist in any attempts to maintain stability, as well as to prevent Communist influence. William M. Hammond illustrates that this is true, by arguing initially that the media had an entirely different perception of what was going to happen in Vietnam. But as things changed and intensified, so too did the media’s coverage. The Battle of Ap-Bac was one of those events. It was clear from the correspondence that there were many unanswered questions about this conflict. The Kennedy administration was upset with the media coverage, even though they did not state outright that America’s participation was unlikely to win the war. Or that the administration’s claim that it was solely to stop Communism from spreading was only part of the reasons the country became involved. The portrayals of the conflict and the reactions to them created a rift between the government, the media and many Americans. They began to suspect that the government might not have been as forthcoming with the truth. The media began to change their position on the military intervention by the United States.

This situation was exacerbated by the Buddhist Crisis, which occurred in 1963. In 1963, the Diem regime began to see foreign media and certain entities in the press as antagonists. It also started to resist foreign media’s intervention. Many people in Saigon who opposed Diem’s support leaked Diem information to journalists. Kinnard’s books emphasized this as he described how the public opinion grew as the gap between what the government spread and what was reported by Saigon. South Vietnamese authorities had tried to suppress the religious displays of many monks, and even prohibited Buddhist flags. The events culminated in a shocking incident when, on June 23, 1963, Thich Qung Dc, a monk, set himself ablaze while a photograph was taking the photo. Despite efforts to prevent the release of the photo, it was eventually circulated in American media, furthering the suspicions of the American public towards the South Vietnamese regime and their support.

The Tet Offensive was the last and perhaps most important moment that separated public opinion from government motives and actions. Histoically, the war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and their American allies was fought largely through guerilla activities in the jungles. Tet Offensive exposed the serious flaws of the American war effort and brought conflicts into the cities. The Tet Offensive, while it was ineffective in stopping the Communist North Vietnamese from advancing into the South, dealt a huge blow to American public opinion and war efforts. White House coverage of the events was poor. There was no indication that the event had been foreseen, resulting in the heavy loss of life. This occurred towards the end an American government propaganda campaign which emphasized the Americans winning the war. In fact, quite the opposite had happened. The public became irreparably sceptical of government actions and information dissemination.

Media covered the attack in greater detail than any attack before, broadcasting the events as they occurred and the extent of the North’s influence on the region. The American people were shocked by the media’s coverage of Tet Offensive. This, along with other events, caused a deep resentment towards the government. It was the media that was responsible for obtaining this information and highlighting how the Vietcong was creating constant stalemates, even though the White House was reporting that America was winning the War.

ReflectionIt’s clear from all of these sources and accounts that the American government was misinforming the public. As television became the primary source of news, the government found it difficult to screen information that reached the public. The ability of journalists and television to engage with the public almost simultaneously and actively as events unfolded compounded this problem. Media itself was responsible for much of the resentment built up by the American population over the duration of the war. From the outset, it was believed by the American public that they were simply trying to give advice to the South Vietnamese, who were seen as generally benevolent. Both of these claims, however, were shown in a very different light. The United States launched a campaign against the North Vietnamese, which was largely unsuccessful. They tried to exaggerate their victories and minimize their losses. The United States was portrayed in a new light as more information about the South Vietnamese government became available. In this way, the media had a great deal of power in portraying what government officials were trying to hide. The United States has been known to lose wars. The media started to report the events in the way they happened, instead of claiming that the United States was as victorious at the time as it claimed. In the early 1970s, the media, and especially television, had a profound influence on the American public. They were exposed to the facts of the Vietnam War, which in turn revealed the extent of the government’s attempts to suppress these truths. Douglas Kinnard explained that this was the main reason the Vietnam War was unsuccessful.


  • ernestfarley

    Ernest is a 26-year-old education blogger and teacher who writes about a variety of topics related to teaching and learning. He has a passion for helping others learn and grow, and believes that education should be accessible to everyone. Ernest is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and he has taught high school students in the United States, Mexico, and Chile.