Since the Stars & Stripes article on Monday about the Rendon Group’s evaluation of potential war embeds, there has been some back-and-forth about when the profiling was conducted, and for what purpose.
The denials about timeline and evaluation of slant are debunked now that war reporter PJ Tobia has published a copy of his own Rendon report on True/Slant. In it, Tobia’s Afghanistan reportage is characterized as “neutral to positive” while older work, including “Afghaniscrewed: How I Spent My Fall Vacation” for the Village Voice was negative-to-neutral. Tobia’s source at Rendon told him that those with a “negative” grade are more likely to a platoon that guards sandbags.
Journalist groups including the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the Military Reporters and Editors association and the International Federations of Journalist have expressed deep concern about the profiling and barring of writers for the tone and chosen topics of their previous work.
The Rendon Group drew a lot of attention to itself in the runup to the Iraq war in 2003, for its role in creating the Iraqi National Congress who in turn fed the U.S. false information about WMDs. The CIA-funed INC was in fact, named by John Rendon in the 1990s after the first gulf war.
Evaluating and advising on journalists looking to take on an embed assignment is part of Rendon’s $1.5 million contract with the Department of Defense. The Rendon pie chart obtained by Stars & Stripes was clearly part of their media analysis offering. The firm also boasts something called the “Early Warning Radar” to ID the bad stuff before it happens.