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1/25/2018 7:38:29 AM
Posted: 3/12/2006 6:37:39 AM EST
The terrain of the information battlefield

If a blogger goes to Iraq largely at his own expense to cover a war he believes has been incompletely reported by the regular newspapers, this is the way he is characterized by the Washington Post:

Roggio's arrival in Iraq comes amid what military commanders and analysts say is an increasingly aggressive battle for control over information about the conflict. Scrutiny of what the Pentagon calls information operations heightened late last month, when news reports revealed that the U.S. military was paying Iraqi journalists and news organizations to publish favorable stories written by soldiers, sometimes without disclosing the military's role in producing them. ...

In addition, the military has paid money to try to place favorable coverage on television stations in three Iraqi cities, according to an Army spokesman, Maj. Dan Blanton. The military, said Blanton, has given one of the stations about $35,000 in equipment, is building a new facility for $300,000 and pays $600 a week for a weekly program that focuses positively on U.S. efforts in Iraq. ...

The Post went on to say Roggio was credentialed by the American Enterprise Institute, an allegation that Roggio denies.

After military officials in Baghdad said Roggio could not be issued media credentials unless he was affiliated with an organization, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization in Washington, offered him an affiliation, according to an entry on Roggio's blog. He and two other bloggers launched a new Web site a month ago ( http://threatswatch.com/ ), where he has posted many stories about his time with the Marines. Most provide detailed accounts of patrols or other outings on which he accompanied U.S. forces.

Roggio replied:

I was not credentialed by the American Enterprise Institute. This would be impossible as the needed press credentials must be provided by a media organization. A friend suggested I approach the American Enterprise Magazine, which is a periodical published by the American Enterprise Institute. We were unable to work out an agreement, so I searched for an alternative.

Another friend suggested I contact The Weekly Standard. Richard Starr was happy to help and provided the necessary credentials to embed. Also, Rod Breakenridge of the Canadian talk radio show The World Tonight kindly provided documentation for credentials as well. The two letters allowed me to successfully embed, and there were no questions about my credentials in Baghdad or elsewhere.

On the other hand, the Washington Post has largely missed this story. It turns out that Al Jazeera invited a hundred bloggers, all expenses paid, to a symposium in Qatar earlier this year to promote its stations. One person who wrote on the subject was Alvin Snyder.

One of the most controversial recent events in the blogosphere was the 2nd Annual Al Jazeera Forum in Qatar in February, where at least 100 blogger-delegates had all travel and accommodation costs covered, courtesy of their host sponsor. Another instance involved 25 bloggers who were hired by Holland's tourist bureau to fly to Amsterdam, stay in a five-star hotel and tour the city with an unlimited credit card. And, oh yes, the bloggers might decide also to write about the great tourist destination, but were not obligated to do so.

At least one blogger disclosed the Qatar trip to their readers according to Snyder.

Professor Marc Lynch, who wrote about the Al Jazeera conference in his blog Abu Aardvark, believes his ethics are intact because "travel and accommodations plus a small honorarium is the absolute norm for academics giving talks. It isn't the least bit controversial, and 'ethics' doesn't arise at all….I give a dozen talks a year, and every one offers the same – the only variation is the size of the honorarium."

Professor Lynch is being forthright according to Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, because "professionals" who earn their living by research and writing are expected to have a different set of standards from amateurs.

academics have very different standards than journalists. So you end up with two sets of standards, one for the 'professionals' and one for everyone else. That's why I think transparency is so important. If the audience can at least discern which writers are financially independent in their pursuit of topics and who might have a conflict of loyalties.

Caveat emptor. Let the reader beware.

posted by wretchard at 6:00 PM | 8 comments
Link Posted: 3/12/2006 6:40:39 AM EST
[Last Edit: 3/12/2006 6:42:40 AM EST by ArmdLbrl]
A voice divided

Austin Bay quotes Timothy Garton Ash with respect to what America doesn't do in the field of information warfare.

Our universities should invite their academics and students, who have often been in the vanguard of standing up for free speech and human rights in Iran. Our newspapers and journalism schools should bring over their journalists. Our trades unions should hitch up with their unionists, some of whom have organised major strikes. Our parliaments should establish links with their parliament which, though far from fully democratic, has been giving Ahmadinejad a rough ride.

Writers, artists and filmmakers should be encouraged to travel to and fro, carrying ideas in both directions. Women’s movements in Iran, representing half the population systematically discriminated against, should be supported by women’s movements in Europe. Iran’s Islamic thinkers and jurists, both reformist modernisers and conservatives, should be engaged in dialogue by theologians and scholars from other faith traditions. All this should be done less by our governments than by our own societies, and not just by America and Britain - traditionally distrusted by many Iranians - but by all European countries, working separately and together. We need a European Iranpolitik.

The underlying reason why America is doing so poorly in the field of "information warfare" against the Jihad is that its traditional organs of articulation -- the academy, media, Hollywood -- are largely hostile to the War on Terror itself. It's conceivable that an Iranian might flee persecution only to be taught at a US university that he ought to embrace it by the many academic departments whose point of view is exactly that. In a fundamental sense, the War on Terror is twinned to the greatest single issue dividing the Left and Right, which is whether the United States, as a nation, is legitimate or whether, as some would maintain, it is Amerika: an abomination whose demise must be hastened by any means necessary.

posted by wretchard at 6:45 PM | 43 comments

Link Posted: 3/26/2006 8:28:21 AM EST
March 26, 2006
The Washington Post & My Embed
The Washington Post's Ombudsman addresses the issue of my embed

Last December, Messrs Jonathan Finer and Doug Struck wrote and article titled “Bloggers, Money Now Weapons in Information War” (byline - U.S. Recruits Advocates to the Front, Pays Iraqi TV Stations for Coverage), which basically equated my embed in Iraq with a military information operation. I responded, and explained the numerous flaws in the Washington Post article, and in January the newspaper issued a correction for three of the basic factual errors.

Today, the Washington Post's Ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has addressed the issue while discussing the Washington Post's coverage of the War in Iraq. Ms. Howell correctly points points out that my embed (an issue of Public Affairs) was lumped in as an Information Operation. This is something Messrs Finer and Struck, or their layers upon layers of infallible editors, never even investigated.

The Pentagon also is reaching out to bloggers writing about the military. Pro-war blogger Bill Roggio was invited late last year to embed with the Marines, and a story in The Post quoting him brought about 100 critical e-mails generated off Roggio's blog, http://www.billroggio.com/ . Roggio was mentioned in the lead paragraph of a Dec. 26 story by Jonathan Finer and Doug Struck, then doing a rotation in Iraq, on the military's efforts to get its story told favorably. Finer and Struck also wrote about the military's controversial Information Operations program, where Iraqi news media are asked to do stories that focus on efforts to help Iraqis' quality of life and to counter insurgents' attempts to influence coverage. Those stories are often backed up by cash payments.
Roggio was furious that he was mentioned in the same story with journalists paid to write favorable pieces. He said it looked like "I must be part of a nefarious scheme by the military to influence the perceptions on Iraq. All they did was extend an invite that is no different than extending an invite to any reporter. I was invited on my merit. I felt I earned the right to be embedded. I took the risk of leaving my family and job and financing this with donations. Then to see it put in this light, I felt very wronged."

Finer and Hoffman said any close reading of the story would have told readers that Roggio was not paid by the military. That is correct, but a more expansive explanation of the difference between the two programs would have been helpful.

Roggio embedded under the a Pentagon public affairs program that deals with the news media and runs military Web sites. Information Operations, on the other hand, is basically meant to influence coverage. The issue of blurred lines between the two has been raised both by the military and the press.

Lapan arranged Roggio's embed near Fallujah. In Lapan's view: "We have invited bloggers . . . to embed in an effort to tell the story. Bloggers, in my mind, are just another means to communicate accurate, truthful information about what we do. These are not Information Operations any more than embedding a reporter from The Post or the New York Times is."

"The crux of the matter: Public affairs . . . is meant to inform the public. Information Operations is meant to influence our adversary and local populations. PA is primarily directed at American audiences. IO is primarily directed at enemy and supporting foreign publics. By law, IO is not to be directed at the American people. The purpose of IO is to influence; the purpose of PA is to inform," Lapan said.

Finer, in an e-mail, said: "The decision to embed Bill Roggio, a widely read military blogger whose views on the war are well known, came at a time when the military was increasingly expressing frustration with coverage they were receiving in the mainstream media. It also came amid the revelation of efforts to influence coverage in the Iraqi press by paying journalists to publish favorable stories. The story sought only to document what appeared to be a growing effort on the part of the military, and the insurgency, to control the dissemination of information from Iraq. Incidentally, the military, as well as independent analysts, seemed to agree the war over information was picking up on both sides and the Marines I spoke with did not object to the portrayal of Roggio as part of that effort."

To most of the media, my position on the war automatically makes my reporting and analysis of Iraq suspect, even though they did very little work in looking at exactly what I wrote. But Joe Galloway has been against the war in Iraq from the start and has been very vocal about it, and no one questions his motivations. Note how he is treated in this article, "a legendary military correspondent." Thomas E. Ricks, who is writing a book titled “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq," is an objective journalist whose credentials should never be questioned.

If you are member of the club, there is no attempt to discern you position on the war; journalists are by default objective and unbiased. Bloggers such as myself, who actually follow the day by day operations and developments in Iraq, and perform accurate analysis based on these details the media cannot be bothered to track, are of course "pro-war," "activists" and such. What a sad state of affairs for our media.

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