What are the pros and cons of using analysts who are predominantly former high-ranking military officers to present their opinions in a public news medium?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One benefit of using former high-ranking military officers as public news analysts, also called pundits, concerns the fact that journalists are limited in their areas of expertise. As TV executives and news producers see it, "Journalists can't know everything"; therefore, it becomes very useful and even necessary for news producers to have experts on call (Tugend, "Pundits for Hire"). Former high-ranking military officers have contacts and "specialized knowledge about strategy, weapons, and tactics that most journalists don't have," making them key contacts for their comments on war ("Pundits for Hire"). In general, many agree that using pundits has provided the public with more expertise than has ever been available before.

However, using pundits can of course raise ethical questions. A journalism professor named Richard Schwarzlose, who specializes in ethics, has raised an ethical concern with respect to paying experts for their expertise. When experts are paid for their expertise, what they say can be called into question, especially when television is concerned. Everyone knows that television is all about entertainment and delivering "colorful and provocative commentary" regardless of facts ("Pundits for Hire"). Hence, many are concerned that when paid, pundits may become willing to say whatever needs to be said to keep getting paid, leading to intentional distortion of the facts. Also, some experts may be tempted to protect their paid positions as consultants by providing comments on a debate even if they aren't truly experts on particular facets of a story.

Another danger with using pundits concerns lack of objectivity. Most pundits are naturally respectful of the military and therefore pro-Pentagon, which means they give viewers only a pro-Pentagon side of the story. However, that's not the case for all pundits. Both retired generals Bary McCaffrey of NBC and Wesley K. Clark of CNN openly criticized the "Bush administration's war plan, questioning whether their were enough U.S. forces in Iraq to get the job done" ("Pundits for Hire"). Hence, while pundits certainly do have their own levels of expertise, they also have their own opinions and even biases.