Broadcast journalist Peter Arnett to speak on the media’s role in the Vietnam War

KINGSTON, R.I. — October 22, 1999 — Newspaper and television reporter Peter Arnett once swam the swift-flowing Mekong River in Laos to avoid censorship and print a controversial story in Thailand. His effort eventually led him to become one of the top news correspondents of the Vietnam War. As part of the University of Rhode Island’s fall honors colloquium series, “Legacies of the Vietnam War,” Arnett will speak on Vietnam War reporting and how the generation of reporters who covered the Vietnam conflict changed America’s view of war and the media’s role in American foreign policy. Arnett will speak in the Barry Marks Auditorium, Room 271 of the Chafee Social Science Center on URI’s Kingston Campus, Nov. 2 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. His visit is sponsored by The Providence Journal. Arnett began his career working as a copy boy for a small daily, and later for a political weekly, and a sensational tabloid. In 1950, he transferred to Southeast Asia to work for the American-owned Bankok World, where Arnett got his first taste of crisis reporting and began stringing for the Associated Press and The London Daily Times. Arnett helped start and edit a weekly newspaper in Vientiane, Laos in 1960. Called The Vientiane World, it was targeted at Americans living in Laos. When authorities closed down the newspaper for its critical news stories and sensitive subject matter, Arnett accepted a job offer from the AP to be a correspondent in Jakarta, Indonesia. The country did not take warmly to his critical dispatches and Arnett was expelled. The AP assigned Arnett to Vietnam in June of 1962, a time when America was just beginning to become interested in Vietnam. There Arnett joined “The Boys Of Saigon” a small number of journalists from The New York Times, UPI, and TIME magazine, who were dedicated to relaying an accurate account of the war. Arnett stayed the length of the war in Vietnam from America’s first interest in 1962 to America’s withdrawal in 1975. He covered numerous battles in the highlands, the Mekong Delta, the central coast, the DMZ, and the enemy side of Hanoi. Arnett was one of only three reporters to have an eye-witness account of the Battle for Hill 875 in Dak To, a story that made headlines around the world. Arnett accompanied the relief column that fought its way up Hill 875, where an entire U.S. paratrooper battalion had perished. Arnett spent two days amongst the troops and more than 200 casualties of the battle, enduring sniper fire from Communist troops only 100 feet away. Miraculously Arnett was not wounded throughout his stay in Vietnam, although 60 of his fellow reporters and friends were killed. Since the Vietnam War, Arnett has covered many national events for the AP, including the 1976 presidential election, the Atlanta Child Murders, and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. He has also worked for CNN, covering natural disasters and crises overseas and was stationed in Moscow early in 1986, where he covered all aspects of Soviet society and culture. For his Moscow coverage, Arnett won the Olive Branch Award. He also worked as CNN’s National Security Correspondent in Washington, D.C., and as an Israel correspondent in Jerusalem. Arnett also played a major role in covering the Gulf War from Baghdad. In May of 1999, Arnett quit CNN to join, a startup company that is the first international broadcaster on the internet. Arnett has won more than 50 prestigious journalism awards in both print media and television, including the Pulitzer Prize, three Sigma Delta Chi awards, Columbia University’s DuPont Award, the Peabody, the Emmy and several Ace Awards. Arnett is a popular speaker at colleges and seminars in the United States and abroad, and is a favorite interview subject by journalists from around the world. URI’s Colloquium series runs Tuesday nights from 7:30 to 9 p.m. and is free and open to the public. x-x-x For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116