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January 4, 2005
The Human CostBy Greyhawk
When imaginary reporters ask me for advice, I respond.
Cub Reporter: I've got to do a piece on a recent US victory in Iraq, but my editor told me know that even though we're covering this story to claim "balance" in our reporting I still have to find a way to leave readers demoralized and if possible unaware that the US actually is winning. What advice can you give me?
Greyhawk: Well, the common approach is what's called the "S*** sandwich, where you write two stories, one the American victory and the other listing every "successful" insurgent attack over the past couple weeks, then combine them by alternating paragraphs into a fused product. To break it up a little, toss in the phrase "beleaguered Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has been rebuked in recent weeks by Republican Senators and Army Privates alike, was not available for comment." Whatever the story is be sure to mention the upcoming elections and how this makes it less likely for them to be seen as legitimate, then top it with a headline that makes it clear that the country is descending into chaos.
Cub Reporter:The headline isn't a problem, my editor already wrote it, along with all the Rumsfeld parts. But we ran several of those "sandwich" stories already this week...
Greyhawk: So you need something else?
Greyhawk: Well, here's an idea. It's not new, but it hasn't been completely burned out yet either. Play the "human cost" card.
Greyhawk: Yes, but small numbers are what work now. Look, here's what you do. The Americans are currently experiencing a string of successes in Iraq. Despite the challenges the Iraqi people are increasingly optimistic about their futures, and tired of the insurgents. But every American and Iraqi victory comes at a price, and that price is often the lives of soldiers. So you focus your story on the guys who died in the battle, not the outcome of the battle itself.
Cub Reporter: That's sick! My publisher will love it!
Greyhawk: No doubt.
Cub Reporter: "Putting a face on the war" - yes! I mean, we could make everyone reading question any victory the Coalition forces could ever achieve, just by pointing out the "shattered dreams" of the casualties of the fight. And no one could question our motives - because we support the troops!
Greyhawk: Just make sure you don't mention the word "hero".
Cub Reporter: Certainly not, that's a word we reserve for John Kerry and Mike Moore. Better stay away from "sacrifice" too. Way too Christian... hey, this will be great! I've got the whole thing written already. We're gonna break new ground here. I'm thinking Pulitzer!
Greyhawk: Well, I wouldn't say that...
Cub Reporter: What? This is what the committee looks for!
Greyhawk: Oh, I'm sure. But I mean this has all been done before. Look, here's a recent example from Long Island Newsday. You'd be hard pressed to know this was the story of a coalition victory.
Cub Reporter: Reading:
MOSUL, Iraq - Spc. Michael Kreuser was curled at the bottom of his sleeping bag Wednesday afternoon inside a tan apartment building the U.S. Army had converted into a combat outpost when an enormous blast shook him awake.
Wow - this was a Coalition victory?
Greyhawk: Yes, it was, with at least 25 insurgents dead. But read the last paragraphs...
Finally, Kurilla's convoy arrived at Tampa, which was under barrage from mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, and saw a 5-foot-deep crater in the road - and the remaining bits of charred, crumpled metal from the truck that had carried the explosives.
Wow! This is great stuff! "The fighting stopped." That quote rocks!
Greyhawk: Yup, dead insurgents generally stop fighting.
Cub Reporter: But damn! There's no way I'll get a Pulitzer for my story.
Greyhawk: Maybe, maybe not. But you will get noticed, of that I can assure you.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 4, 2005 3:02 PM | Permalink
Greyhawk has some advice to reporters covering Iraq. I think they're pretty much already following it, though. Read More
Here's what one warrior thinks of the Media's portrayal of the war in Iraq. Go get 'em Greyhawk! Read More
Satirical story from a milblog (military blog - someone serving in Iraq who is doing a blog) about a fake interview w/ a 'cub' reporter. THe satire is that all the reporters are interested in are the 'insurgent successes', which unfortunately there ha... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com