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Shortly before the ground attacks began in the Persian Gulf, a panel of media experts criticized media coverage of the war as "pro-war" while another defended the difficult position of journalists at a discussion Saturday afternoon. The panel, organized by the Philomathean Society, gave the audience of approximately 100 an opportunity to hear opposing views on how well the media is covering the crisis in the Gulf and to ask questions of experts on both sides. The event, held in Logan Hall, began with a brief speech given by each of the panel members. After their speeches, moderator Tom Vinceguera asked the panelists questions and the audience was given an opportunity to ask questions at the end of that period. The panel was comprised of Charles Leighton, the assistant foreign affairs editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer; Ed Herman, who teaches a class on media at the University; Assistant English Professor James English; and Linda Jensen, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University. English opened his remarks with criticism of both President George Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "While I'm critical of Hussein's stiffling government, I have nevertheless seen little political intelligence on the part of the United States," English said. English said the media, while claiming to be "nonpolitical," have attempted to make the war seem "glamorous." He also said that many major media events, such as the Super Bowl, display "pro-war sentiments." As an example, he noted that Bette Midler's song "From a Distance" won a Grammy Award, "because it is a favorite in the Gulf." Herman spoke about how the media fail to inform the public about issues other than how strong the U.S. is and how war was inevitable. For example, he said that on August 23, Hussein said that he was considering withdrawing from Kuwait. He said that the media basically ignored the issue, "burying it in an article on page 14" of The New York Times. "The media never questioned what Bush is really up to," Herman said. "There is lots that Bush doesn't want discussed by the media so it's not." Charles Leighton, the sole spokesperson for the media, said it is very difficult for reporters to obtain information in the Persian Gulf. "The journalists are almost prisoners of war," Leighton said. "We've written a lot about censorship but people don't want to hear about our problems. We're trying to have a free flow of information. We're not trying to give out military secrets." Jensen gave a history of the media coverage of wars. She said that the media tend not to show all the country's options -- especially peaceful options -- and that they focus on the nation's military strengths. Jensen also said she feels that the media deserve the criticism they receive. "They ignore stories that could have been," said Jensen. Leighton responded to comments of moderator Vinceguera that activists across the political spectrum at least agree on their hatred for the press. "Panels want to argue with the media, but this is a hard thing because the media [are] not prepared to argue back," Leighton said. Gene Kim, a Wharton junior, said after the discussion, "It is a sick feeling when you realize how manipulated you are [by the media]."

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