Millions of viewers tuned in around the world to watch Peter Arnett’s dramatic accounts of the intense bombing campaign that marked the start of the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991.
His live television coverage from Baghdad is credited with making CNN a household name and establishing it as a major news network that everyone turned to for breaking news. It also won him an Emmy, television’s highest honor, to add to his Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam War coverage while with The Associated Press.
Arnett, a regular lecturer at West Virginia University’s School of Journalism, is returning on Wednesday, Oct. 3, to present a public lecture.
His presentation, “The Boys of Saigon: Covering an Earlier Unpopular War,” will begin at 6:15 p.m. in Room 205 in Martin Hall and is open to the public. Arnett was one of “The Boys of Saigon,” along with his close friend, David Halberstam, who changed the way war is reported by challenging the government and holding it responsible for its actions. As part of his presentation, Arnett will give a multimedia talk on Halberstam, who was killed in an auto accident last April.
Arnett has spent a lifetime covering wars and international crises for major American news organizations, most recently 2003’s Gulf War II and the long bloody aftermath. He recently joined Shantou University’s Cheung Kong School of Journalism as a professor and took a group of students to Vietnam this past summer.
Arnett covered the Vietnam War for 13 years for the AP, from the buildup of U.S. military advisers in the early 1960s to the fall of Saigon in 1975. He wrote more than 3,000 news stories for the AP, mainly eyewitness accounts of major battles between American and North Vietnamese forces.
The writer-historian Halberstam described Arnett as “the best reporter of the whole Vietnam war” in his book, ” The Best and the Brightest.” Halberstam wrote, “He is the journalist most respected and beloved by his peers. No one saw more combat and no one would put himself more on the line.”
Arnett, who was born in New Zealand, joined the fledgling CNN in 1981 after a 20-year career with the AP. He changed media, he says, because he felt television news was taking over from traditional print coverage as the primary means of news delivery. Arnett and his CNN TV crews covered wars and civil disturbances in scores of countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.
As the fear of terrorism grew in the 1990s, Arnett kept returning to Afghanistan. He was the first western TV journalist to interview Osama Bin Laden, in 1997. He left CNN in 2000.
Arnett’s autobiography, “Live From the Battlefield,” published by Simon & Schuster in 1994, received much critical praise and was named a “Book of the Year” by The New York Times.
Arnett is also highlighted in the recently published book, “Feet to the Fire, the Media After 9/11,” edited by Kristina Borgesson and published by Prometheus Books. The book features a 40-page interview with Arnett.