Dateline-Saigon is produced and directed by Boston-based filmmaker, Thomas D. Herman, a Co-Producer of the Emmy-award winning feature film “Live From Baghdad” starring Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham-Carter. Herman spent twelve years researching, filming, and interviewing over 50 writers, photojournalists, radio and television correspondents, government officials, historians, and others for this project. “The film is about a group of journalists who risked their lives to bring back a story no one wanted revealed.” Telling the truth about what was happening in Vietnam, Herman says, illustrated a shift away from traditional media support of any US war effort. “It was a revolution in attitude and a revolution in how news was distributed and how news was consumed.” But after the Vietnam War journalists never again gained the access they had there. “Reporters were shut out of every war since Vietnam,” CBS newsman Morley Safer says in the film.
Herman’s interest in the story began after reading David Halberstam’s seminal book, The Best and the Brightest. “I had always been curious about the heated controversy surrounding his reporting and that of others critical of the war. Was their reporting fair? Were these reporters responsible for our “losing” the war? I was a CNN field producer in Vietnam during the 25th anniversary of the end of the war in 2000. While there, I met a number of men and women who had covered the war, some still working reporters, some back in Saigon for a journalists reunion. The stories I heard on that trip of how the war was reported were dramatic and moving, and the reporters themselves were compelling and interesting characters. These reporters wrote the first draft of one of the most important and controversial chapters in American history. The stories behind that first draft are fascinating and largely unknown. It is also an exciting adventure story, a story of both personal and national coming of age and loss of innocence.”
Producer/Director Herman describes why he decided to focus on the five journalists featured in Dateline-Saigon and how their work continues to influence foreign reporting around the world. “What was especially compelling about these five — David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Malcolm Browne, Peter Arnett, and Horst Faas — is they were among the first to report that story on the ground in Vietnam was vastly different than that being reported by the government in Washington. They were among the first skeptics. They were all young, unknown, and relatively inexperienced when they arrived in Vietnam in 1961 and 1962, but were all to become legends. While they were naturally competitors working for competing news organizations, they were forced to draw together, literally under fire, and in the face of powerful government pressure, to report a story the government tried to hide. Their work in reporting the reality of the war, in speaking truth to power, blazed the trail for reporters who followed them.”