Information Warfare: August 13, 2005

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The U.S. Department of Defense is having problems getting their story out in Iraq. The mass media is no longer sending their first string talent there, even though Iraq still gets a lot of attention. The problem is that the place is very dangerous for journalists. If they want to get around, with a degree of safety, they have to embed (travel with an American military unit.) Some do this, but most prefer to stay in a safe zone and let Iraqi or Arab assistants go out and collect story material. Some just take whatever handouts the military offers and cobbles together stories from that. This doesnt help the military much. The basic problem is that the reporters are looking for gloom and doom stories. Thats pretty normal anywhere, but the military knows that their combat commanders are very popular with the folks back home, and would like to get them on the evening news. Opinion surveys back in the states showed that military officers are among the most trusted groups out there (much more so than journalists.) 

The solution to this problem is seen as making it easier, and safer, for more journalists to get out to where the troops are, without being embedded. Journalists don't like the embed problem, because they get to know the troops they are with too well, begin to identify with them, and have a harder time doing stories criticizing what the troops are doing. So military public affairs officers (PAOs) have asked for more journalist support resources. This would involve personal security for individual journalists, transportation (helicopters, armored vehicles, or even a boat), and access to an Internet link so they could upload their video. The brass are reluctant to go this route, because there are far more journalists who would ask for this, than could be accommodated (there is, after all, a war going on.) The journos who get left out will not be happy, and some of those who go will likely run anti-military stories anyway. But the PAOs believe it should at least be tried on as large a scale as possible. 

 


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