BACKGROUND CHECK

Journalists Face PR-Firm Review

The Pentagon has asked a public-relations firm to read and rate stories written by journalists requesting embedded positions with troops in Afghanistan on the basis of the stories’ positivity. Rendon Group “examines individual reporters’ recent work and determines whether the coverage was ‘positive,’ ‘negative,’ or ‘neutral’ compared to mission objectives,” a company official told Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper. The military defends the practice as a way for commanders on the ground to familiarize themselves with the work of the journalists joining their forces, and say no one has been denied access because of his or her rating. But journalism advocacy groups argue the practice is fundamentally flawed. “It speaks to this whole issue of trying to shape the message and that’s not something the military should be involved with,” said Ron Martz, president of the Military Reporters and Editors association.