Cover image for Inside television's first war : a Saigon journal
Inside television's first war : a Saigon journal
Steinman, Ron, 1934-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbia, MO : University of Missouri Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
262 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS559.46 .S74 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Inside Television's First War recounts Ron Steinman's tenure as head of the NBC news bureau in Saigon from April 1966 until July 1968. This was a time during the Vietnam conflict that included the major American buildup and the Tet Offensive and saw much of America turn from support of the war to opposition. During this period, television journalists learned how to report war in a distinctly new way: through the eye of a camera on the front lines, in the countryside, and in cities, towns, and villages. The experience of a living-room war was new, and its effects are still being felt today. Yet in our own era of high-tech journalism and hasty judgment, Vietnam's lessons are all but forgotten. Steinman and his colleagues, mostly quite young, were covering an increasingly controversial war. They were going places and doing things that had never before been done on such a scale for an international audience. They used film that had to be shipped and then developed because satellites were rarely used before 1968. Correspondents and crews often drove to their assignments in rented cars, whether covering a battle, a riot, a political event, or a military briefing. When necessary, they resorted to military flights or erratic, unsafe commercial airlines. The author also provides glimpses into his personal life. He writes of his courtship of Josephine Tu Ngoc Suong, a young Vietnamese coworker who was seriously wounded and near death in 1967. After her recovery, she and Steinman were married and now have three children together. And he tells the story of his brother-in-law, a prisoner in a Communist reeducation camp after the war, to whom he tried to smuggle money and medicine during a visit in 1985. Inside Television's First War is a behind-the-scenes look at how the Vietnam conflict influenced young journalists, and how their coverage of the war influenced the American public. Steinman offers an intimate portrait of what became the biggest story of many people's lives. History buffs and general readers alike will benefit from this valuable contribution to understanding America's coverage of Vietnam.

Author Notes

Ron Steinman is Partner, Producer, Director, and Writer at Douglas/Steinman Productions in New York City

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Steinman went to Saigon as NBC news bureau chief in April 1966 before the significance of the Vietnam War was clearly evident. It was the first war to be reported by television at a time when there was less government--and network--interference in war reporting. It was also a time before technology enabled the fast and constant relay of images and news from around the world. Steinman recalls the struggles he and his staff of young, multinational correspondents faced: learning how to report a war from the front lines, how to get past the canned news offered by the government, and how to get undeveloped film shipped out of Saigon. He recalls the hardships of living in a war-torn nation and the friendships that helped advance news gathering and personal survival. Steinman also recalls his courtship of a young Vietnamese coworker whom he later married. This is an intense look behind the scenes at how television reported on the growing conflict in Vietnam and how those images influenced American public opinion of the war. --Vanessa Bush

Choice Review

Steinman takes the reader back to the height of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, when he served as NBC's bureau chief in Saigon for 27 months. He makes quite clear in his introduction (which he otherwise devotes to why he took more than three decades to write the book) how much the world of international television news has changed since those days. Satellite transmission, fax machines, personal computers--to say nothing of the Internet--have shifted control of foreign correspondents to New York and other network centers, and away from the on-the-ground reporter. Likewise, the arrival of 24-hour news with the formation of CNN (in 1980) has totally changed the conception of news reporting. The book focuses the conditions in Vietnam--on how isolated journalists were in Saigon and the surrounding country, on "how the war influenced young journalists," on "why some folded under stress ... while others remained strong." One learns about the circumstances under which journalists worked, their equipment, the situations they covered (his discussion of the TET offensive is gripping). Steinman writes extremely well; perhaps three decades of consideration and thinking enabled him to assemble his thoughts more easily. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All collections. C. Sterling George Washington University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1. A Changed Cityp. 11
2. My Arrival: 1966p. 21
3. The Bureaup. 32
4. It's a Wonder Anything Worksp. 40
5. Women in Warp. 45
6. Steak and Contour Flyingp. 49
7. Fighting Cocks and Politicsp. 52
8. Routine and Then Somep. 57
9. Siestas and Demonstrationsp. 62
10. Tipsters and Informantsp. 70
11. Inside the Labyrinthp. 79
12. Saigon City Deskp. 86
13. Breakdownp. 131
14. Inevitable Changes: 1985p. 150
15. My Apartment: 1966-1985p. 155
16. To Eat Is to Live: 1985p. 165
17. Courtshipp. 177
18. Laurie and Lanp. 186
19. Happy New Year: 1968p. 197
20. Fatiguep. 224
21. Reinforcementsp. 236
22. Life Would Never Be the Samep. 248
Author's Notep. 254
Indexp. 255