January 07, 2006

STEPHEN SPRUIELL at the National Review Media blog wonders if Bill Roggio's mistreatment by the Washington Post wasn't part of a trend:

The theme here, if you haven't already picked up on it, is that two major papers have used recent news reports about U.S. military information operations to try to discredit a pro-U.S. analyst and a pro-U.S. blogger. Both Rubin and Roggio write from a standpoint that is generally supportive of the U.S. mission in Iraq, and the NY Times and the Washington Post have attempted to portray their writings as untrustworthy and potentially motivated by financial considerations.

I think this has something to do with the fear and contempt some newspaper reporters feel towards online analysts and bloggers who don't buy into the objective model of journalism and are nevertheless taking a growing share of the news and analysis market. Writers like Rubin and Roggio, who have both traveled to Iraq and used the Internet to report their findings, are challenging the traditional gatekeeper role of papers like the Times and the Post, and some at those institutions don't like it. As true believers in the old school of objective reporting, they're seeking to discredit this new school of journalism ó which has a clear point of view about its subject matter ó as nothing but pro-U.S. propaganda.

But accuracy, fairness and honesty should count for a lot more than "objectivity," to the extent that the latter is even possible.

I'm glad that the folks at the Times and the Post are "true believers" in objective reporting.

Now if they'd just become true practitioners thereof. . . . But the shabby misrepresentations we've seen suggest that they're not even up to the "accuracy, fairness and honesty" part. Which is why, of course, they're losing readers to people like Roggio.

UPDATE: Michael Yon is calling for volunteers to do something about this problem:

One year ago, the gap between the ground reports from Iraq from military friends prompted my travel to Iraq to see for myself just what was happening. The dispatches posted to these pages over the ensuing months were an attempt to bridge that gap. Now that Iím back in the United States for a time, trying wring every bit of information of the war out of the news, only to come up dry most days, itís become clear that in just under a year, the media gap has morphed into a chasm. Before this thing becomes a black hole, itís time for a few good men and women to put their military experience and expertise to use in an operation that can create an alternative channel that will allow frontline information to break through and be heard.

Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Pentagon isn't helping, something I've noted here before. Here's an email from a Colonel recently back from Iraq -- he'd probably rather I not use his name:

The Department of Defense and the services are not keeping abreast of changing times and are therefore failing the strategic communications mission. By failing to engage "blogs" they are not reaching an outlet that itself has millions of "hits" a year. As you are well aware Blogs have had a tremendous impact on the media mainly due to the unfettered ability to reach out and touch just about everyone. Blogs are quickly gaining more and more credibility and will soon be the source of information, and analysis for millions of Americans and others around the world.

The MSM does not support the war and their reporting is slanted and one sided. Basically 3 TV stations and several newspapers decide what the American people should listen to and read. Why does the White House and DoD continually go back to the same outlets that twist stories to meet their ideological goals.

I think DoD and the services should include bloggers as part of their distribution lists and include them in the regular press conferences and press releases. If this requires issuing credentials then do it. The Bush administration has said that the support of the American people is a strategic center of gravity in winning the war. and I believe the best method today is the use of blogs to meet that end. DoD need to use the best means possible to reach the American people and blogs are it.

I advocated this idea while serving in Iraq, but the people who were in charge of the Strategic Communications did not understand the impact that bloggers have. Or they immediately said we cannot do that, but could not explain why. I agree that the Army does not understand the impact of blogs and they are "blowing it with bloggers," and they need to analyze the issue further and think forwardly.

It's a big mistake, and I hope the Pentagon will rethink it.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt, on a different subject, makes a point that's relevant here: "We are now in the second of five stages of old media death. First there was denial, and now there is anger."