Sunday, February 3, 2008

Blogging From the Battlegrounds

During the first Gulf War in 1990, war coverage as society knew it changed forever. For the first time, war was televised live, most notably in CNN's coverage from the Al-Rashid Hotel during the first night of air strikes. While televising these events live brought forth concerns about protecting sensitive military information from Iraq, it also brought about instantaneous coverage that was unprecedented in previous wars.

Fast forward nearly 20 years later while we are again at war with Iraq, and once again, the media has changed. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, who previously commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and now heads the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, one of the Army's main intellectual centers, is encouraging soldiers to share their stories using new media.

Caldwell wants soldiers to blog and post their videos on YouTube to friends and family in an effort to get soldiers to expose everyday military life in Iraq. He writes in his blog Small Wars Journal that not only will this have an "overwhelmingly positive effect" but will also play a critical role in how the Iraqi media portrays American soldiers. Caldwell writes:
The enemy video tapes operations and then distorts and twists the information and images to misinform the world. What if we had documented video footage of the same operations which refuted what our enemies say? By the way, that is not enough, we have to get our images out FIRST! The first images broadcast become reality to viewers. If we wait until we see the enemy’s images, we are being reactive and we have already squandered the opportunity.

It is an interesting concept as we move away from the traditional media roles. There will always be a need for traditional war reporters but adding the military view straight from the horse's mouth adds a whole new dynamic to the media.

However, as Wired notes in its coverage about Caldwell's statements, the military has a variety of restrictions when it comes to the media due to concerns about leaking restricted information. Even though official sites haven't been immune to leaking official information (as Wired points out), YouTube has been banned on military networks, influential blogs are blocked and everything that soldiers post online must be reviewed by commanding officers.

This type of media coverage poses security concerns but only if it is not approached in the right manner. It can still be a positive way to inform the public about the war and proper rules and regulations should be implemented but the current restrictions should be loosened a bit.

This is not a new issue as soldiers have been blogging for a couple of years but seeing a top military general encouraging blogging is sure to help step up the efforts to make it easier for soldiers.

It is definitely an interesting turn that has given a completely new point of view in war coverage. It has the potential to do a lot more with better military support.

No comments: