Reporting Vietnam: ‘We don’t only work for the news, we work for the memory’

By Gouri Sharma

The only victory for the media during the Vietnam War was that the public decided it never wanted to see those images and stories again. That was a central theme at a Frontline event on Friday to mark the 35 years of the end of the Vietnam war.

If you couldn’t be with us for this event, then you can watch the whole thing here:

Photojournalist Patrick Chauvel, joining the panel of people who captured haunting images of the conflict, said:

What the public does not want to see and suffer (now) is because the images, the writing and the footage of the Vietnam war is right there and is still there. That’s our only victory. The people are afraid to see another burned young woman. We don’t only work for the news, we work for the memory as well.

But the journalists on the panel admitted they missed many incidents and swallowed the US military line that the war was over in 1973 because Americans weren’t being killed any more. This was despite the fact that there were many Vietnamese civilians still being killed in their thousands over a year later

 Joining Patrick on the night were veteran war correspondents Jon Swain, John Laurence and Michael Nicholson.

The night was opened by an eight minute clip of a Granada TV special on the war hosted by Nicholson from three years ago, where he returned to Vietnam to look how places had changed. Chauvel also showed eight of his images from Vietnam and Cambodia plus an interview with English photographer Larry Burrows, who is regarded as one of the best photographers to have covered the war and was killed in a helicopter attack in Laos in 1971.

Jon Swain said:

This was a defining war that America lost and after that the world really changed. America never fought a war in the same way and never let the press in the same way. It was a defining moment of how wars were covered and I think TV has alot to do with that and after that came all these films.