We’ve been keeping an eye on Stars & Stripes‘ coverage of The Rendon Group, a private public relations company that profiled reporters who requested embeds with the military in Afghanistan. Now, they report that the Pentagon has canceled its $1.5 million contract with the company.
In an article on Monday, the military publication reported that U.S. public affairs specialists in Afghanistan revealed that all reporters were profiled by Rendon prior to being embedded. But there were mixed reports all week as to whether or not journalists had been denied an embed based on their previous coverage.
On Friday, Stars & Stripes reported that the background reports were “used by military officials to deny disfavored reporters access to American fighting units or otherwise influence their coverage as recently as 2008.” But other military officials are still denying that report.
As PRNewser reports even after news of the contract cancellation came out, one military spokesperson said in NPR interview that the practice of denying reporters embed positions based on their background reports was “flat out incorrect.”
Update: New York public radio station WNYC points us to an August 7 interview on its “On The Media” program. During the interview, Matt Mabe, a journalist and soldier in the U.S. Army, revealed the military’s use of background checks:
“The military is now commissioning private companies to research, profile and make assessments about reporters’ previous military coverage. They rate it using pie charts and graphs…and finish it off with a summary evaluation, which to me carries an almost Orwellian overtone.
“For example, we have a reporter on the ground right now, and his assessment reads like this: ‘Given his neutral to positive sentiment typical in his narrative reporting, as well as the characterization of his media outlet, which is politically center right, one may expect this reporter to produce coverage that is, at the least, neutral in sentiment and representative of the military point of view of events, if not neutral to positive.’
“Now, the idea here is to figure out the best place to put them or prevent them from embedding at all. And, in my opinion, this just counters the ideals that we who wear the uniform are expected to represent.”
Listen to the whole interview here: