Press Pass and a Gas Mask

Embedded reporters made the military look good in Iraq, but did they do the same for Miami cops?

One could also argue that the embedding program was a complete bust. Journalists embedded with police "cut" teams ended up twiddling their thumbs. Cut teams are police units trained to detach protesters who form "sleeping dragons," in which individuals link arms through PVC piping wrapped in chicken wire. As they spread out they create undulating lines of bodies, making it difficult for police to round people up. Cops in Miami were taught to subdue such protesters by carefully cutting through the pipe and the chicken wire so as not to lop off fingers. Unfortunately for reporters embedded with cut teams, no dragons went to sleep during the FTAA protests. "I had a big fight with one news outlet I won't name because they didn't like that assignment," Schwartz says. "But if they were bored, they had the option to leave their unit and strike out on their own."

Schwartz also acknowledges that he prevented some embedded journalists from joining certain police units during the protests. "We were concerned that if we took reporters to their unit we would be dropping them off in the middle of some protesters confronting cops," Schwartz explains. But doesn't that defeat the purpose of embedding reporters? "Sometimes, the value of embedding can be overly estimated," he says.

In one instance, Schwartz notes, he was unable to transport WSVN-TV (Ch. 7) reporter Brian Andrews to his assignment: "Everywhere we went, it was blocked off. I didn't want to leave him in the middle of some melee. Eventually, he told me not to worry about it because he had gotten enough footage from the field on his own." Andrews declined comment, referring questions to station management. Alice Jacobs, WSVN's news director, did not return several phone calls seeking comment. News managers and reporters for other local television affiliates also did not respond to interview requests.

Schwartz says the department was pleased with the results of its embedding program. "I think embedding reporters was a beneficial thing," he says. "If we have another FTAA or another Elian Gonzalez, we would definitely do it again."

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