I'm here at Blogworld Expo this week and will be posting notes from the sessions I attend. This one was about how milbloggers are changing the way wars are reported. It was a mediocre session, but the panelists were great. Later in this post I snark about what the DoD and the White House guy had to say, but let me be clear. The kinds of things that are interesting as you work out CONOPS for supporting milbloggers are not interesting to a general audience. That was the problem, not the panelists or the moderator.
Furthermore, those of us who love the milbloggers and folks like Michael Totten and Michael Yon were hoping to hear more about what they saw as the future of milblogging vs. the horrific reporting of the traditional media. There was a bit of red meat for us at the end, but for the most part this was a "how did the policy come to be" kind of session. That just isn't very compelling stuff.
Here are my notes from the session. I'll be happy to respond with greater detail in the comments of this post if anyone is interested.
Panelists included Blackfive, Michael Totten, a DoD blogger outreach fellow and someone from the White House. I'll track down the names later. In the meantime, here are my (occasionally snarky) notes.
- The DoD was interested in outreach to milbloggers because there were many stories that needed to be told that didn’t get the attention of the MSM. This topic is bureaucratic and kind of slow.
- If you really want to know what’s going on in Iraq, look at the aggregate of the blackfive interviews with the reconstruction teams. They have made an effort to reach out to people on the other side (what does that mean?), but they have not responded.
- Michael Totten went over as an individual and was given access to all kinds of things and his visit was not managed.
- This session drags from time to time with bureaucracy-speak and name dropping about this general or that. In any talk, organizational charts are death whether they're verbal or displayed.
- The administration and the DoD were looking for independent witnesses telling the soldiers’ stories. I’m looking for caffeine. Military journalists are less trusted because they’re, well, military journalists.
- Update: In retrospect, I clearly did not understand the purpose of the session. This is a key point right here. In a previous post, I complained about the staged nature of the CENTCOM press releases and videos and compared it to the YouTube work of the soldiers on the ground. Both the Bush administration and the DoD saw this same thing and that's why they're working with the milbloggers.
- There’s a long discussion about how the idea of allowing milbloggers into the mix was sold to higher authorities like the military brass and the administration. The resulting incredibly dull conversation is an excellent argument against big government. Government meetings and government decisions are about as dull and slow moving as one can imagine. Here we’re talking about private citizens going into a shooting war and it couldn’t be duller if we were discussing how paint is mixed at Home Depot.
- These folks met with President Bush to discuss the role of milbloggers in getting the word out about what the troops are doing in the field. Blackfive was a part of this and experienced all kinds of trouble afterwards, being accused by left wing commenters of being a tool for the administration. However, the families of the soldiers and the soldiers themselves really appreciate their blogging.
- The biggest problem with the traditional media is that they don’t embed. Many of the journalists are not allowed to embed by their editors. Totten saw all kinds of things while he was embedded, but very little violence. It’s not the kind of thing that the AP would publish. Michael Totten met the people of Iraq and the soldiers themselves. You can’t make headlines out of this. Instead, the MSM stays in the hotels in the Green Zone and uses Iraqi stringers to collect data so that they can create a story every day. Stories of people aren’t published on a daily basis by the AP. They’re looking for explosions and death every day because that’s what the newspapers publish.
- Blogging, being liberated from such requirements, gives the blogger insights. Reporters also don’t like to embed because they get too close to the soldiers to write objectively.
- Analysis a day later: The underlying fear is that the reporter will grow to morally differentiate the American soldiers helping the people Iraq and the insurgents and terrorists blowing up civilians indiscriminately. This is a problem with the underlying philosophical foundations of modern journalism, that they deny the existence of good and evil and instead cast everything as differing, equally valid points of view.
- The reporters write about what goes on outside the wire when they never go outside the wire themselves.
- Now we’re back to talking about the administration. No! Help! I can’t take any more! Milbloggers were important to the President because he, too wanted access to the troops without a barrier or interpreter. That was interesting. Why did it take 5 minutes to say this?
- More bureaucracy talk. I’m surfing the net thanks to the free wireless connection provided by blogworld expo. I think it’s time for a cheezburger.
- The DoD guy is telling a story about how a Marine Corps general wasn’t able to get his story out about what was going on in Iraq until he held a bloggers’ roundtable phone conference. The quality of the questions asked by the bloggers were way past anything the Washington Post was asking. The WaPo took the transcript of the conference call and wrote stories out of it.
- The traditional media freaked out over the bloggers having a meeting with the President and the interviews with the Marine general.
There. That's it for this workshop.