As one of the King’s journalism students who participated in the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre-sponsored trip to Turkey, I found Mr. Wark’s column on the subject unfair. Far from unscrupulously providing a service to the Turkish army in exchange for cold, hard cash, King’s journalism students participated in a reciprocal relationship that benefited both sides and was profoundly educational.
The notion that we traveled to Istanbul to give tips to NATO on spinning the media originates in Mr. Wark’s imagination. The purpose of our trip was not “to hone PR skills,” it was to pressure officers to be more accountable and open to us. This is why in the course of the simulation we demanded press conferences, refused to accept opaque answers, and complained bitterly in our published work when we felt fair standards of transparency were not being met.
If the only possible relationship between the media and the military is one of antagonism, as Mr. Wark suggests, then we accomplished this minimum. Fortunately, we were also able to take away more complex lessons—among them, that in conflict situations (real or well-simulated) moral distinctions shift easily and to describe any one side as completely good or completely bad is unhelpful.
By Richard Norman