Volume 80, Number 4

October 2005

In Bed with the Military: First Amendment Implications of Embedded Journalism

Elana J. Zeide

This Note explores the First Amendment implications of embedded journalism and its alternatives. Despite its media-friendly stance, embedding imposes limitations on press access and substantive coverage that raise First Amendment concerns about governmental distortion of the news—most significantly, a substantive and structural tendency to promote pro-military coverage. Despite these concerns, this Note finds that embedding does not facially violate the First Amendment. It further argues that the embed structure promotes free speech principles better than alternative methods of regulating wartime reporting. Unlike a complete ban on press access or the removal of restrictions, embedding at least allows for an abundance of intimate coverage, increases the transparency of governmental discretion, and promotes clear standards for military accountability. Accordingly, this Note concludes that the embed program’s sanctioned supervision is the most supportive of First Amendment values and offers some policy suggestions to mitigate worries about distorted coverage.