Those who have read my old blog know that I am a big fan of CENTCOM and their blogger engagement team. I think that they are way ahead of most of the military in terms of adoption of new media techniques.
They have some people coming to their side, but it appears that someone at U.S. Central Command fell asleep at the wheel.
If you are going to piss off a blogger, you don’t want to piss off one of the most influential in the blogosphere — Patterico. Here is his story:
I spent much of the weekend chasing down a story about the L.A. Times’s misreporting of an incident in Iraq. As part of my investigation, I corresponded with the press folks at CENTCOM. We ended up exchanging a few e-mails, as I tried to obtain a clear and unambiguous statement that I could use. (You’ll likely be reading more about this in the next 2-3 days.)
The final e-mail I received began this way:
Thank you for your support for the troops; we appreciate your attempts to set the record straight on your blog; which by the way is very impressive and does have quite a following. However, this forum is reserved for credentialed media outlets. If we stop to answer every blogger in world who has a question we will be inundated. Our first priority is getting the credentialed media the correct information as quickly as possible so that they can present a balanced story. That in itself is quite a challenge, as you can imagine, in the fog of war and with intricacies of this mission. I hope that you will not take offense and understand, but please refrain from contacting the Press Desk unless you can provide media credentials.
Translation: “Let me say this politely. You are just a blogger and we have real media to deal with.”
I’m not a prima donna who thinks that the military should have to respond to my beck and call. I was actually rather sheepish about contacting these folks in the first place, and continually apologized for taking up their time when I sent follow-up e-mails. I understand that the press officers have limited resources, and can’t respond to every blogger in the world. I have no beef with this particular press officer, and I understand the limitations she is operating under.
However, I find it ironic that, in the very next line of the e-mail, the press officer confirmed that the L.A. Times had misreported a significant detail about the incident in Iraq. Namely, the L.A. Times had reported an airstrike when, according to the military, none had occurred. (More about the significance of this in coming days.) What’s more, the L.A. Times still has not reported the military’s denial.
It bugs me because I have met some of the officers who are working at CENTCOM on blogger engagement. They want to be doing the right thing. They understand the techtonic shifts that are taking place and rippling throughout the media as we know it. So it bothers me when the CENTCOM experiment — a huge step forward — ends up taking two steps backward.
I think back to an exercise I conducted while I was a student at the Defense Information School (DINFOS). We were given a list of 50 different media outlets that had requested to ride along for a day with our commander. We only had room for six outlets, and we had to decide who got to come.
I wonder: if Patterico and the Northbrook Star were vying for the last seat on the ride along — would it go to the small weekly newspaper over the popular, nationally read blog simply because the newspaper is credentialed?
Some stuff to chew on.
If you want more to think about, check out the comments to Patterico’s post. One of the comments sparked my interest (and inspired Tsk Tsk, CENTCOM (Part Two), my next post).
Read Full Post »