By doing this he captures the evolution of the coverage from print to predominately television. The book closely examines the actual events and juxtaposes them against the reporting of the time. He follows the coverage through three presidents and offers insight on their desire to manage the press while showing us a new press, uncensored and unmanageable. The press had become complicated. On the one hand it was simply the messenger press bringing images into our home that we may or may not favor. Yet, as Hallin is quick to add, "[...] journalists do not like to think [...] of their role as purely passive".1
The book analyzes the change that the media coverage of war went through from the Korean conflict to the end of Vietnam. There had been control of the press in Korea, as Hallin reports, where journalists were initially subject to court-martial for "unwarranted criticism" and later censored.2 Television was in its infancy then and government control of communications availed the news to government control. Thus, the book gives us a look at Vietnam as a new media experience. It shows the difficulty Kennedy had in wanting to censor the press while denying there were combat troops on the ground. It shows a government attempting to operate and control a press in the face of new technology and ideals.
An intricate part of the books theme is how the press did not lead American public opinion during this period. It makes the claim that the press did not take the lead, but merely reported and reflected on events. He acknowledges that there was a continued criticism from elements of the press as early as 1963, but insists that it was directed at tactics and not ideology. Even with the introduction of television into the zone of combat, with the front-line view of the violence and gore, Hallin contends that it did not overtly lead public opinion. As he states, "[...] it was not until the collapse of consensus was well