By Jean Morgan
Prompted by the Ministry of Defence, national newspaper picture editors and managing editors have met to assign press pool positions ahead of a potential war on Iraq.
Stymied by not knowing whether there will even be a pool or how big it would need to be to cover the theatre of war in the Gulf, editors have devised pool options ranging from three to 30 places.
Positions have been allocated between the national titles, but it is clear newspapers will not depend solely on the MoD to report the war. Around Fleet Street, newsdesks are making covert plans to get reporters into hot spots independently.
In an article on The Independent’s media pages this week, Robert Fisk, a veteran of the last Gulf War, urged his fellow journalists not to fight to join any pools.
Fisk was scathing about reporters who donned military gear and attacked the US army strategy of “embedding” journalists so they could be used to put the military’s point of view.
The Daily Mirror has been the most outspoken national opposing war, but editor Piers Morgan will send his own “troops” to cover the expected conflict.
“My position is clear,” he told Press Gazette. “We will never turn on the British troops. Apart from anything, my brother and my brother-in-law are both serving army officers and will probably be involved.
“Our argument will be with the political bosses who make these decisions. My reading of the military view of all this is that it is not a million miles away from ours. There is a lot of disquiet in military circles about what is being done.”
But the Mirror’s take will certainly be different from the hardline support of The Sun. It will be like the paper’s reports of the Marines in Afghanistan, said Morgan, “creating an atmosphere where the sooner the Marines were removed from that place, the better”.