Giving and Getting ‘Coined’

The Washington Post had a report yesterday (2/22/11) about the military tradition of giving “challenge coins.” For thoseunfamiliar, here’s a quick explanation:

“Challenge coins,” as they are known, have become an important part of the ethos of the armed forces, where the story of service members’ careers–deployments, promotions, awards–is told by the ribbons and patches on their uniforms. Traditionally, commanders hand out the coins to troops for exemplary service and morale boosting.

The pointof the article is thattoo many coins are floating around,and are being offered to just about anyone. Including reporters who cover the military:

When he was covering the Pentagon for CNN, Jamie McIntyre kept getting “coined” by top officials after interviews, which made him slightly uncomfortable. “I always felt like as a news reporter, you don’t want to be in anybody’s debt,” he said.

So he bought a batch of coins for $4 a pop with his own money because the network refused his expense account. “CNN Covering the World Since 1980,” they read on one side. On the other: “Jamie McIntyre Covering the Pentagon Since 1992.”

Obviously a reporter should feel “uncomfortable” when military officialscome bearing gifts. But making your own coins to mimic those traded by the people you’re supposed to be covering? Now that’s just weird.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.