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The Colonel Hunt Welcome Mat

There is likely not much doubt that Colonel David Hunt's welcome mat on his front doorstep says "Go Away". But, as Murdoc notes, this is precisely why we like him. It's his job and he's a master at it.

There was a lot of griping going on after the ultimate alpha male, Colonel David Hunt, challenged the panelists during the Blogging from Theater session at the MilBlog Conference. To be sure, he seemed even antagonizing, eliciting spirited responses from both panel and audience alike. But, there was a method to his madness that needs to be acknowledged, and has been quite well by Murdoc Online with 'Tainted' Embeds and the role of MilBloggers

Murdoc doesn't think that MilBlogs are ever going to replace Legacy Media or DoD press releases. Though a valuable fact-checking service will be provided, and little glimpses into things otherwise unseen will be available, the majority of Americans are not going to be getting their news from MilBlogs any time soon. And if they were, you can bet that anti-war MilBlog-ish sites would be popping up like weeds to counteract the perception of "good news" offered by a substantial number of MilBlogs.

This, Murdoc thinks, is part of what Col. Hunt was getting at. He wanted to know if we thought the American public was ready to get their news from unfiltered blogs. If the military should bypass Legacy Media and just stream the goodies down to those in pajamas.

Murdoc makes outstanding points, including the following:

Even most of the sites that aspire to more than general diary-like personal reporting do not have the means and resources to get across what needs to be communicated. Not in a way that's understandable by John Q Public. "An Army of Davids" MilBloggers might be, but no one is going to be able to keep up with enough of the Davids to really be able to understand what they need to understand about Iraq and the military. And don't kid yourself that, even if some of the MilBlogs get "big" enough to actually do this, they won't be facing some of the same issues (pressure from advertisers and other sources of funding, for instance) currently faced by Legacy Media. Are MilBloggers valuable? Yes. Very. But they're not a full-on replacement for traditional journalism.

Craig and I agree that Murdoc makes great points, and Craig notes further that he wishes Murdoc would have concluded stronger, reasserting the importance of MilBlogs. I think we probably agree for the most part there, too.

Regardless, Col. Hunt challenged the panel and evoked at times heated discussion. What he was getting at, in pure Hunt fashion, cannot be overlooked. Murdoc does well to point that out.

Colonel Hunt is a Marine's Marine, and might well eat tree bark and kittens. Get over it. But what was he trying to drive towards (or stick our noses into) while we were busy patting ourselves on the back, as Murdoc aptly notes?

1 Comment

It's not an all or nothing issue. Nor is it about Milbloggers patting themselves on the back, Col. Hunt's attitude, or his perceptions. It's about how innovation evolves. I'm drawn to the arguments made by Bruce Kesler, which I discuss in Warmed Over Cold Warrior: "Milblogs and Media Innovation".

The key point from Kesler's interview with Joe Galloway is that the Media can't afford to send embeds or reporters into combat zones and the reporters don't want to face the risks without any financial or physical protection. It's not just bias.

I agree with that and with the result that "stringers" get used and they "report" the news that suits the buyer ( who may be the media or their favorite terrorist). Also, by staying in Baghdad Green Zone, the reporters' own presence increases the attraction of Baghdad for terrorist "media events". These guys do know how to fight an information war for the American Public's resolve - even if our media doesn't ( I hope, speaking charitably).

One approach is for Milbloggers to become alternative "Stringers" for the media. Yes, it means taking the feed from a lot of them since they can't always post. BUT, it means the media can cut costs big time by using fewer stringers and by deploying fewer folks to sit in Baghdad Central, since the feed can go direct to Home,USA. Note I said "fewer", not "none".

The media performs aggregator, filter, and analysis functions. Some bloggers, like Bill Roggio could perform the functions of Op-Ed and Analysis in Field and also serve as "Aggregator Sanity Checkers" for the media. OK that's a new role that I just made up - but funding a "Bill" to do that in conjunction with the above "stringer" model would be cost-effective.

The result is a new way to combine the Embeded model with the Milblogger model that may provide more accurate and timely news and analysis economically. There are other variants on this theme that fit the world as it is and is becoming. I think that some form of this collaborative approach is both realistic and a natural extension of what is already happening. I suspect some folks, like those at Military.com, are trying to evolve a viable business model along these lines. Indeed, if the Legacy Media doesn’t figure out how to do it themselves, MiddleMedia outfits like Military.com, may arise to fill the gap. That’s not bad, it may even be the best way to evolve responsible reportage of globally dispersed low-level combat operations.

Read my post for the links to Kesler or try his Democracy Project blog - I'm not sure how to get them easily in this comment form.

Gene F