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April 25, 2006

Continuing the Discussion started at the Milblogger Conference.

It's clear the story out of the conference that has legs is that of... communication. How DoD communicates. How the blogs communicate. The responsibilities. There's a discussion going on in the comments that I think ought to come up into the air, between Denizenne Kat and The Huntress.

For some background on the subject check out Melinda's post at Most Certainly Not, and Grims post on the discussion with the CENTCOM PAO at Grim's Hall (Grim is reporting on the conversation I only caught part of). For a more mainstream report on the Conference and the issues therein - check out Daniel Glover's piece in National Journal.

Remember - these were in comments, not polished posts, so no snarking on Emglish or such.

Kat started it:

I started to write a message, but realized that I have about three or four posts worth of things I want to say. So, here I am, early morning, writing something, probably too extensive, but feeling very necessary to say about current information war efforts.

Since my old boss told me that, if you cannot summarize it in five bullet points or less, it will be tossed without reviewing the details, I will bullet point the situation as I see it. The conference was very helpful in formulating this concept.

Caveat:

Let me state clearly that, because I am largely focusing on the military’s efforts, the document puts a huge emphasis on the word “military” throughout each section. This document continues to reference the military because I believe that the military must change the most. However, whenever the word “military” appears here, I mean it to include the Department of Defense, the NSA, the CIA, congress and any administration leaders, including the president, who has a responsibility in this effort. I do not want officers, NCOs and enlisted men and women in the field to believe that I lay the blame solely at their feet or do not recognize that culture and regulations affect their ability to function and correct this problem. However, every person, from the top to the bottom, must be made aware of this problem so that all possible speed, resources and ideas may be brought to bare on this problem

1) Military Culture and Attitude Towards the Media is Bad.

2) The Military (and civilian administration) has failed to recognize the media is their customer, they are not the customer of the media.

3) This attitude, from top to bottom, is preventing the military from delivering the appropriate service to the customer/media.

4) The military has failed to recognize and maximize the media. It is the middleman. This middleman's distribution ability reaches the greater audience/customer base that it wishes to influence (I do not simply mean Americans, either). The Military on its own cannot hope to reach this audience, not even through maximizing its "niche market" of bloggers, military magazines and "friendly" media, though it is a place to start rebuilding.

5) The military needs to develop a business strategy that includes finding, developing, selling to and maximizing this customer base. It needs to include developing a customer service plan, identifying the customers' needs, appropriate distribution.

6) Passive distribution methods are ineffective. Military distribution of information acts as if it was a warehouse and the customer must come and pick up their own product or come to the office for service.

7) If the military does not provide the service to the media, it will get it from somewhere else. Quality may be poor, but quantity is never an issue. (list methods of identifying "customer" business and how to deliver services - most important is developing the personal touch)

8) The enemy has stated that half the battle is in the media. It is a major part of their strategy, not an after effect. The military has failed to elevate their information operations to the same status. It must become on par with Combat Operations and Civil Affairs.

9)The military has alternately treated the media with commraderie and contempt. Severe change in military attitude is directly related to Vietnam. All other actions and relations after only re-enforces this problem.

10) The military failed to understand the changing global information world during Vietnam and continues to fall behind in this category. The enemy then, as now, has not failed in this. (List specific lessons during this change).

Okay. It's 10 not 5, but lucky I didn't pontificate like I wanted.

One reason I thought about this is the PAO at the conference kept saying that he was putting this stuff out and the media was doing anything with it.

Huntress replied:

Kat:

Interesting but I disagree with much of where you lay the blame or much of what you wish would happen.

The military attitude towards the media isn't bad, in fact its quite the opposite. They want to work with the media...its the media that both hates, distrusts,and in effect refuses to work with the Military. It is the Medias attitude towards the 'evil military machine' that is at fault.

The only reason our enemies "use" the media effectively is because the media sees their message as the lessor of two evils, and in most cases sees our enemies as insurgents who have been victimized by American "Foriegn policy". America is to blame for Islamic hatred towards the West, and as such, our enemies are painted with a much more sympathetic brush.

To that effect, the MSM enjoys reporting bad, horrible, shitass news including what our enemies to do our troops, and framing all that our troops do in unfavorably light, all in the hope of accomplishing what the media coverage of Viet Nam accomplished - to sway public opinion AGAINST the war on terror, our mission in Iraq, our President, his administration, and to continue their negative assault on the 'evil military machine".

Fred, the PAO, you referred to, expressed his frustration at the mindset of some that blame military for "not getting the news out".

His point was that the military DOES get the news out through the PAO and remains frustrated at the media's attempts to distort, downplay and ignore the good news that the PAO delivers proactively and aggressively, to all Media outlets.

The media neither trusts nor cares to trust anything coming from the DOD, the PAO, and even milbloggers in the frontlines UNLESS it fits into their agenda. PERIOD.

Our enemies use our Media successfully to breakdown the will of Americans ONLY because our Media is a willing co-conspirator/partner.

For years after Nam, the Military was afraid to allow embeds, because they saw the effects of bringing the war LIVE into Americans livingroom.

That changed during the Gulf War and embeds are almost a fact of life, however the result remains the same. Embeds often do not provide a fair and balanced view of the war....and when they do...editors in the newsrooms make editorial decisions that lean towards their agenda.

I see no reason for the Military to engage in any further attempts to "make nice" to our media.
Nor do I see any reason to blame the military for the lack of fair and balanced reporting.

YOu might want to listen the Reuters panel discussion Media coverage of this war...you can access it on my blog. There were some excellent points made by Steve Boylan, Iraqi reporters, and Reuters Iraq Bureau chief. He mentioned that whenever Reuters reported on hospital openings, etc, our enemies would end up attacking these places, after hearing about them. Now Reuters is aware of how risky it is to mention hospital and school openings etc. Our Military is also aware of that danger...its not OPSEC in the true sense..but it raises serious concerns.

The collective MSM hates and distrusts the Military and any furthers attemts by the military to work closer with the Media will not be met favorably.

Instead, I want the Military to make much better use of milbloggers and independents like Roggio and Yon to get the message out. The multiplier affect these cyber outlets create guarantees the Military better coverage and a much larger reach, than anything they do now or try to do, with an unwilling MSM.

I've worked directly with the media on issues far less critical and seen the result first hand which amounts to the MSM telling me "I want the story to reflect our agenda...and so it shall".

One only needs to look at how other issues are framed: i.e. right to choose vs right to life, secularism vs religion, democrats vs republicans,
and you see the manipulative machinations that occur.

The Military is doing all they can when it comes to MSM who refuse to put aside their personal bias and agendas.....it's time for them to put more resources behind independents like Yon, Roggio, etc,(like providing them with body armour, etc, but NOT controlling what they write) and to work with milbloggers so that they can be free to deliver an honest message that doesn't interfere with OPSEC.

I enjoyed the entire event, participating virtually was great, and especially loved the last panel! Had an important family event not been happening on the same weekend, I would have been "getting into a lot of trouble in DC". :>)

Perhaps we can attract the Castle's occaisional professional journalist visitor to this discussion...