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In June, the U.S. Army denied an embed to a reporter from the pro-military (and partly Pentagon-subsidized) Stars & Stripes newspaper, on grounds that the reporter “refused to highlight” good news stories about the Army. As it turns out, assessing reporters’ attitudes about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has become a much wider practice, according to Stars & Stripes. “U.S. public affairs officials in Afghanistan acknowledged to Stars & Stripes that any reporter seeking to embed with U.S. forces is subject to a background profile by The Rendon Group,” the paper reported Monday. Rendon reportedly ranks reporters’ stories as “positive,” “negative” or “neutral.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Rendon Group, the paper notes, “gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq for its work helping to create the Iraqi National Congress,” a body that helped supply false intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq.

Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a media handler in Kabul, denied that U.S. forces reject reporters on the basis of their attitudes. “It’s so we know with whom we’re working,” she told Stars & Stripes. Mathias added that the military is moving away from the “positive,” “negative,” “neutral” scale, and instead assessing news stories according to their factual accuracy. “If it’s accurate, that’s a successful news story, whether good or bad,” she said.

Still, Rendon’s work “speaks to this whole issue of trying to shape the message and that’s not something the military should be involved with,” Ron Martz, from the Military Reporters and Editors Association, told the newspaper.

[PHOTO: USMC]

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